After departing from Newark, N.J., on a 14-hour flight on January 30, the National Urban League‘s 40-plus member delegation arrived to the bustling, vibrant and modern city of Beijing, China. We are here on a historic cultural and trade mission to begin a dialogue of mutual interests and potential opportunities to bring Chinese investment to African-American communities. Despite a little jet-lag, we immediately began an action-packed schedule of activities.
These activities were highlighted by meetings with Ambassador Liu Guijin, former Chinese Special Envoy on African Affairs. He shared with us an overview of China’s growing engagement and involvement with many African nations, including their efforts to assist the Organization for African Unity (OAU) in building its new headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Ambassador stressed the Chinese emphasis on peaceful co-existence and mutual respect for sovereignty and territoriality. We were impressed that Chinese trade with Africa increased from 1 billion to 100 billion in just 10 years.
Our next visit was to China’s Ministry of Commerce where, where we met with Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Chao. We emphasized the African-American community as an important component in the growing trade relationship between the U. S. and China, and the need for China to channel its investment in the United States into urban communities. We underscored the interest of African-American businesses conducting business in China.
At lunch we were treated to a luncheon at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, which is the very same room where the Chinese hosted President Obama for lunch! The elegance of the State Guesthouse, with its 40-foot ceilings, large glass walls and majestic view, underscored the importance and historic nature of our visit.
As we prepare for our second day, we will be meeting with the Ministry of Education and the China Counsel for the Promotion of International Trade. We will also visit the Great Wall of China.
We have on our trip a distinguished group of African-American leaders that include: former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, National Newspapers Publishers Association Chairman Danny Bakewell, Los Angeles Urban League President Blair Taylor, Detroit Urban League President N. Charles Anderson and Los Angeles businesswoman Janice Bryant Howroyd, CEO of Act-1 Group, the largest American company owned by a black woman (ranked No. 5 on the BE 100s Industrial/Service list).
We are being hosted in Beijing by Mr. C.C. Tung, a member of the governing board of the China-United States Exchange Foundation and Mr. Donald Tang, chairman of the Asia Society of Southern California.
We’ll update you again from Beijing in a few days.
Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.