China is Oregon's second largest trading partner, after Canada. So it comes as no surprise that when the Chinese Ambassador to the United States came to the state, his speeches were a hot ticket. As Andrew Theen reports, Ambassador Zhou's speech at the World Affairs Council Tuesday centered around China's development.
A packed room of about 160 people heard Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong speak. For the first twenty minutes or so he talked about what he termed China's “peaceful development.” Ambassador Zhou used the word peace often.
Zhou Wenzhong: “Peace, development and cooperation are the calling of the times, economic globalization continues to gain momentum.”
Zhou talked about China's staggering economic growth statistics, but he also touched on some concerns stemming from rapic growth. He cited the disparity between the income of rural and urban people in China.
But Zhou was entirely unapologetic regarding China's stance on Taiwan and Tibet. He also praised what he called China's peacekeeping work in Sudan.China's relationship with Sudan has come under international scrutiny because of the crisis in Darfur.
Zhou also touched on recent recalls involving Chinese exports to the US.
Zhou Wenzhong: “The media has been churning up agitating stories about safety and quality of Chinese exports at the expense of the principle of objectiveness and fairness in journalism.”
Earlier this month, Mattel recalled toys from China made with lead paint, as well as small magnets children could swallow. And [ http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/gilchristsoames08_07.html ]Gilchrist & Soames recalled toothpaste manufactured in China after independent studies found traces of a chemical used to make antifreeze.
Following the speech, members of the audience asked questions. Not surprisingly the first question centered again around those recalls.
Zhou said the volume of commodities traded between the two nations is enormous, and the recalls represent only a small faction of China's exports to the US. He emphasized cooperation and dialogue rather than overt criticism and added that China is ramping up inspections next month.
United States Congressman David Wu was in the audience, and he said the responsibility falls on both nations to ensure trade doesn't continue to accelerate at the expense of quality. Wu thinks one factor is that the Chinese government is just unaccustomed to criticism.
David Wu: “They're not used to dealing with real response to real people's concerns. It's not 'small d democracy' so I think they are having troubles dealing with the level of public concern.”
This evening Zhou and his wife travel to Salem for dinner with Governor Ted Kulongoski.
A small but vocal group of protesters displayed Tibetan flags outside Concordia's University Hall and chanted throughout Zhou's speech.
The World Affairs Council's president, Maria Wulff, apologized to Ambassador Zhou for the disruption but said that disruption often goes along with the First Amendment.