POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 6, 2011
For Chinese people, Hawaii not only brings to mind beautiful beaches and coconut palms, but also sparks emotional thoughts about Dr. Sun Yat-sen, father of modern China, who led the 1911 Revolution 100 years ago.
The 1911 Revolution put an end to more than 2,000 years of autocratic monarchy in China and set the stage for utterly transforming China in the next hundred years.
Dr. Sun spent his formative years in Hawaii and received middle school education at 'Iolani School and Punahou School (at that time called Oahu College). It was in Honolulu that Dr. Sun founded China's first modern revolutionary group and began to map out a blueprint for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Today, Dr. Sun's dream has become reality. China is now the second-largest economy, the biggest exporter, the second- biggest importer and the largest emerging market in the world.
More than 300 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past 30 years. The average life expectancy has increased from 35 in 1949, to 73.5 in 2010. The living standards and educational and cultural levels of the Chinese people have greatly improved.
China's rapid growth has brought enormous opportunities to the United States. The China-U.S. relationship has become one of the most important and dynamic relationships in the world. We are now each other's second-largest trade partner. China has been the U.S.'s fastest-growing export market for the last decade, and U.S. exports to China increased by 468 percent from 2000 to 2010, while its exports to other countries went up only by 55 percent.
HAWAII, the closest U.S. state to China, is once again playing a key role in Sino-U.S. relations as a bridge across the Pacific Ocean. China-Hawaii relations are flourishing in various fields.
Over the years, subnational cooperation has been an important foundation and driving force of the relations between China and the United States.
Hawaii is a very active player in this important exchange. Gov. Neil Abercrombie attended the first China-U.S. Governors Forum in Salt Lake City in July this year and three months later, joined other U.S. governors and Chinese provincial leaders for a second round of dialogue in Beijing.
Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz is a frequent traveler to China. His five-day trip to Beijing and Guangzhou this July was very successful to promote Hawaii to Chinese travelers as a vacation and business destination.
Hawaii was also the venue for the first China-U.S. Asia-Pacific Affairs Consultation in June. This mechanism aims at promoting bilateral communications and coordination on Asia-Pacific affairs.
In 2010, Hawaii exports to China increased by 39.5 percent compared to that of 2009, which makes China the fifth-largest and fastest-growing exporting market for Hawaii. Clean energy, energy conservation, environmental protection and biomedicine are the new highlights in China-U.S. economic cooperation. In this regard, Hawaii is uniquely positioned with its own advantages and has enormous potential for cooperation with China.
TOURISM is another important area for growth. Despite the current economic downturn, the tourism industry has shown strong vigor and vitality, serving as an important engine for world economic growth and prosperity.
Now China and the U.S. have become each other's fourth-largest tourism market. The number of Chinese tourists in Hawaii has jumped significantly since the signing of the 2007 memorandum of understanding between China and the U.S. to allow Chinese vacationers to visit the country.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority projects a total of 91,000 Chinese visitors to Hawaii this year, a 37 percent increase over last year. The new twice-weekly service between Shanghai and Honolulu by China Eastern Airlines will provide the state with $60 million in annual visitor expenditures, and annual arrivals from China are expected to surpass 100,000 by 2013.
Thus, Hawaii was the ideal venue for the fifth China-U.S. Travel Leaders Summit, which took place in this September. Shao Qiwei, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, attended the event along with other Chinese government officials and tourism executives. They had very fruitful discussions with their U.S. and Hawaii counterparts about the expansion of exchanges and cooperation in the tourism industy.
This week, Hawaii hosts the 19th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. This will present another opportunity for China and Hawaii to strengthen ties and build new relationships.
With its privileged location and abundant resources, Hawaii has a lot to offer to other 20 member economies. China stands ready to work with the U.S. to ensure the success of the meeting and advance its relations with Hawaii.
Qiu Shaofang is consul general of China in Los Angeles.