Spotlight: Houston's Chinatowns prosper with growing U.S.-China exchange

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-28 14:58:59|Editor: Yang Yi
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by Liu Liwei

HOUSTON, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Growing U.S.-China cultural exchanges have given rise to prosperous development of two Chinatown business communities in Houston, the fourth largest city of the United States.

The first Chinatown is located east of downtown, but today, the southwest area of the city has emerged as a thriving international district.

In the 1980s, the younger generation of Chinese entrepreneurs gave rise to the new Chinatown, a bustling community that covers an area of 16 square km in southwest Houston, about 20 km from downtown Houston.

The first business opened in 1983 in the new Chinatown, which was designed and developed to meet the needs of the U.S. automobile-oriented society.

Today, thanks to many years of support and nurturing by the local Chinese community, the new Chinatown is home to an array of large and small shops, businesses, supermarkets and national banks. The district is now the shopping and business center for local Asians populations.

Because of the presence of the national banks in a relatively concentrated area, many people refer to new Chinatown as "Houston Wall Street," exemplifying its commercial prosperity and importance.

The prosperity of new Chinatown in Houston goes hand-in-hand with the rise of the new generation of ambitious and upwardly mobile Chinese.

"In the past, the old immigrants needed to spend much time and hard physical work to make bread (money), so the progress was slow," said Kenneth Li, chairman of Southwest Management District and member of Houston mayor's International Advisory Board.

Many young Chinese in Houston are now students and have a higher educational background that gives them more advantages in society and the marketplace, Li said in an interview with Xinhua.

Ruling Meng, a retired superconductivity scientist at the University of Houston and founding president of the Chinese Association of Professionals in Science and Technology (CAPST), said that she is a beneficiary of U.S.-China people-to-people exchanges.

"I have been saying that I am very grateful to the motherland for my training," said Meng, who is over 80. "I was a college student in the 1950s in China, and the United States provided me with new opportunities for development."

Meng said that economic conditions were not good then for Chinese people, but everyone studied hard. Even today, Meng is grateful to those who helped her along the way, and said she would like to convey the caring and support to younger Chinese scholars in Houston's campuses when she found the CAPST in 1992.

Charlie Yao, president and CEO of Yuhuang Chemical Inc., based in Houston, is former chairman of CAPST. He is among the new immigrants from China to the United States.

Many young Chinese today are white-collar professionals who have critical thinking skills and are open-minded, he said.

"China's vigorous economic growth has helped to promote overseas Chinese to a higher level of living," Yao said. "No other country in the world has been developing at the rate of more than 10 percent in the past few decades, but China made it."

Jon R. Taylor, political science professor of University of St. Thomas in Houston, agrees with Yao. He said young Chinese professionals moved to Houston from other parts of the United States in pursuit of job opportunity and better life, which in turn pushed the development of the new Chinatown in Houston.

Furthermore, Kenneth Li encouraged the new generation of Chinese to take American mainstream society as a way to promote the development of U.S.-China cultural exchanges. It's a win-win proposition as both cultures learn from and gain knowledge about each other.

Li believes that cultural exchanges are two-way in nature, as some local Chinese groups invite Americans to visit China.

"We should try our best to promote the people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States," Li said. "With Confucian thought prevailing, Chinese are peace-loving people. We must send the message to the world."

Brian Lantz, senior executive of Schiller Institute in Houston, said he is glad to see the emerging young generation of Chinese professionals inside and beyond the new Chinatown in Houston.

"America will benefit from the growing roles of American Chinese and Chinese who are here in business," he said.

While Chinese people are doing important work in academia and science, they also are bringing about improvements in the greater Houston community, he said. "I think we can all benefit."