Friday, October 24, 2008

United States Consulate in Xiamen China ?

Bill Brown ... Xiamen University

Yesterday, at the Xiamen Millennium Harbourview Hotel, I was delighted to meet Mr. Gary Oba, who is from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, and assigned to Fujian Province and Xiamen. And if things work out, we may finally have another U.S. Consulate in Xiamen in a couple years! During his visit last year, U.S. Ambassador Randt mentioned the U.S. would like a consulate here, but it did not seem likely. But this visit, Mr. Oba said, "Xiamen is next on the list." Of course, there are political and financial issues to work out. China has not yet agreed to it, and Washington has not funded it yet--but if the U.S. gets another consulate in China, it will be here.

That will be a great boon to Xiamen, but also to the U.S.. Here are a few reasons that I think we again need a consulate in Xiamen:

!. The U.S. has a long history of cooperation with Xiamen--from the 1840s to the 1940s.
2. Xiamen and Fujian people have for centuries been recognized as being very open to outsiders (Chinese and foreign) and cooperative, and Xiamen people have an especially good attitude about the U.S. because the U.S. helped China in many areas. It was the U.S. that early on tried to put a halt to the coolie trade, and the U.S. was one of the first Western powers to stop trading in Opium. (When they did that, the Chinese Viceroy said, "This is the first time I've seen a "Christian" country in the West practice what it preached!").
3. The U.S., through missionaries, businessmen and diplomats in the Xiamen U.S. Consulate, helped support and pioneer modern Chinese medicine, education, arts, sports, etc.
4. The U.S. helped China fight the Japanese during the war. We had an air base in Longyan, and when U.S. pilots were shot down near Xiamen, in Tong'an, locals rescued the pilots and hid them from the Japanese.
So the U.S. and Xiamen and Fujian have a history together. But today...
5. Fujian has great potential as Beijing pours on the rhetoric and pours in the funds to promote the province as the West bank of the Taiwan Straits development Zone.
6. Fujian is ideally located for trade, between Hong Kong and Shanghai and facing Taiwan.
7. As mainland and Taiwan ties improve, Xiamen will be increasingly strategic.
8. Most overseas Chinese are from southern Fujian province, many from Xiamen. As it becomes more difficult to do business in other areas of China (because of the currency, and increased cost of Chinese labor), many of the overseas Chinese will move their factories from Guangdong and Shanghai to Fujian--because this is their ancestral home, they can get better terms here, and even if they can't, they often own the land in Fujian, and are more willing to take lower profits "at home" than they would in other areas of China.
9. Xiamen is a rich source of educated labor. Xiamen University is China's only key university in a special economic zone, and Jimei College Town is projected, within a few years, to have 200,000 students and faculties in its various colleges and universities.
10. Xiamen is a delightful place to live and work, so U.S. consul officials, I'm quite sure, would enjoy being here, even without the above 9 advantages.

Okay, I could go on, of course. For example, I could talk about the amazing entrepreneurial bent of Fujian people, and how the maritime Silk Route started from here (Quanzhou, just to the North--the legendary port visited by Sinbad), etc.... But my point is--it would be very strategic for the United States to have a consulate in Xiamen--and it would be of great benefit to the Chinese as well, as they try promote their "business abroad" policies.

If only they could open the new U.S. consualte on Gulangyu Islet, in the original red brick building!

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