by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, May 5 (Xinhua) -- "In California we're not encumbered by Washington politics. We have our own politics," California Governor Jerry Brown said at the California-China Business Summit in Beverly Hills in the western U.S. state of California on Thursday.
In a dramatic change from Hollywood's glittering Golden Globes and celebrity bashes, the Beverly Hilton opened its doors to the 2018 California-China Business Summit, which is co-organized by the Milken Institute which is a prestigious economic think tank, CHINAWEEK which is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing understanding of and access to China, and the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products.
Atop the long list of issues and concerns being discussed was the U.S.-China trade tiff that has sparked retaliatory tariffs which threaten lucrative business ties between California and China.
The guiding principle behind the China Week is the belief that by introducing China to the Western world through the lens of Los Angeles, the natural gateway to the East, they can strengthen bonds and create a new dialogue between the two great nations.
"This event strengthens the growing economic, cultural and social ties between California and China," affirmed Governor Brown.
The summit brought together government, civic and business leaders to contextualize and explore the deeply entwined relationship between California and China.
Lou Anne Bynum, the president of Harbor Commissioners, Port of Long Beach, told Xinhua, "LA is the #1 port in the U.S., with 200 billion U.S. dollars, Long Beach is #2, with 180 billion U.S. dollars. We handle 40 percent of container imports for the entire country and create 350,000 jobs. China is responsible 69 percent of that trade."
"California and China recognize that economic prosperity is built on the long view, not which way the wind blows today...," affirmed Panorea Avdis, the director of the CA Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development.
"This trend to scale back and think that one economy can do it alone is short-sighted at best and at worst, could destroy the entire global economy," cautioned Avdis.
As the "Mobile First-Mobile Only" age continues to rapidly evolve, Winston Ma, managing partner and chief investment officer for Silk Road Investment Capital, issued a strong warning that the U.S. new isolationist and protectionist policies are in danger of leaving America behind in the global race to cash in on the next generation of digital tech.
"America led the way with 4G networks, but, through the Belt and Road Initiative and other key trading relationships with developing countries, it's like to be China's digital Silk Road that brings 5G to the next billion emerging consumers, while America is busy building a wall between Mexico," Ma told Xinhua.
Perry Wong of the Milken Institute seconded that concern. "You can do almost anything you used to do on a laptop on a mobile phone now and 80 percent of the cellphones in countries like Pakistan are from China and they adopt China's network infrastructure along with them. And as the Belt and Road rolls out in the future, that influence will keep expanding."
Jonathan Woetzel, director and senior partner of the McKinsey Global Institute Shaghai office, explained, "Globalization is the flow of goods and services, money, talent, people, data. When you are in the flow, it benefits you, your economy is better, your quality of life is better, so it's important to stay in the flow."
He added, "California needs investment in infrastructure right now and China has certainly demonstrated it knows how to invest in infrastructure. Bring some of their expertise, ideas and money to California."
Alan Turley, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for China and Mongolia, noted that policy changes and trade scuffles have caused an alarming trend: "There has been a steep reduction in Chinese real estate investment this past year. A total of 67 projects worth 16 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 has dropped to 52 projects worth just 4.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2017. We need to get that back to where it was."
The next panel served up a near six-pack of California Assembly reps from all across the state: Napa Valley, Oakland, Silicon Valley, San Gabriel and San Bernadino. All of them - Democrats and Republicans - stressed the importance of China's trade to California.
California State Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry from California's 4th District in Napa Valley and the Central Valley came out strongly for the California growers.
"California has the best nuts and fruits, the finest products with the highest standards of health and safety. And Chinese consumers want these products. There should be no barriers to trade," she told Xinhua.
Another California State Assemblymember Kansen Chu, from Silicon Valley, encouraged greater cross-cultural commerce rooted in shared perspectives and history. "High tech and motion pictures are big markets for us in China. We can do more to create co-productions with shared stories, like the Flying Tigers of WWII or building America's intercontinental railroad."
The Inland Empire's Republican California State Assemblymember Chad Mayes said, "California has to get its act together and compete globally. We're all people, we all matter. China, Singapore, Mexico - we have to lift up everyone. Free trade does that."
"It is the role of the California government to spur innovation collaboration between government, business, and academia to plan the future of our economy. To boldly envision and reimagine how we interact with the world around us," Avdis told Xinhua.
Peter Shiao, chairman of CHINAWEEK, summed it up best, "The future of our world depends on our ability to understand, appreciate, and connect with other countries. Learning about the arts, culture, business, sciences and history of another country enriches life and provides a powerful way to strengthen communities," asserts Shiao.
"We are a global economy. This is 2018, not the 1930s and you can't put the genie back in the bottle," warned the Port of Long Beach's Bynum.