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The Southeast to the Far East

By: Rachel Yonkunas Email
By: Rachel Yonkunas Email

The United States and China have a history of uneasy feelings. Most recently, the Pentagon accused the Chinese Government of spying. One month later, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, met for a weekend in California. They discussed those issues, and built a unique relationship.

But has our mistrust grown so far, we lost a chance at diplomatic relations? The truth is, not all of the East feels so coldly towards the West.

Building relationships is the first step to bridging the gap between Americans and Chinese, and that's the foundation of the southern mayors' trip to China.

“We're doing it the right way and we are the right group of people to do it,” said Mayor Jill Swain of Huntersville, North Carolina.

Spanning less than 10 days, they traveled more than 3,000 miles and hit six different cities.

“It's not for the faint of heart. It's not for those who don’t like bus rides,” said Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama.

They met hundreds of Chinese companies and toured different facilities in search of the perfect fit.

Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz said, “This hasn't happened before.”

Mayor Day said, “Hundreds of new jobs coming to our region.”

The mayors built trust, and made friendships.

“It’s not about face. It's not about commercial, but it’s about the real meaning,” explained Juliana Lam, managing director of AML Group Holdings Ltd.

Ultimately, they secured American jobs through direct Chinese investment.

Mayor Schmitz said, “They'll come and open a business in our community, hire our people, sell their product.”

While U.S. Government officials address problems at the top, southern mayors can work at the bottom, building bridges.

“I think these kinds of people to people relationships goes a long way to combat in biases, prejudices, to connect the two most important powers of tomorrow,” said chairman of the Asia Society, Ronnie Chan.

And the merging of these two countries starts in the south.


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