Chronicle of WA-China Relations

1973-1974: Washington's "One-Two Punch" Made Friends Early with China

Magnuson and Zhou

As one of the "One-Two Punch" U.S. Senators from Washington state, the late Sen. Warren Magnuson advocated recognizing the People's Republic as early as the 1950s. He famously said that you could not write off 700 million people and we should bring them into U.N and make trade. Even earlier, he had helped it become law the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943, allowing for the first time Chinese immigrants to become naturalized citizens. In July 1973, he led a Congressional delegation to China and talked about trade with Premier Zhou Enlai, as seen in the picture. And he wanted Seattle to become the gateway to the Orient. (Image source: Centralia Daily Chronicle via King County Library System.)

Jacksons and Zhou

As the other one of the "One-Two Punch" of Washington, the late Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson was known as the "Cold War liberal," with his tough stands on the Soviet Union and his favoring of more defense spending. Yet, towards China, Sen. Jackson didn't mind a detente. Not only did he agree with President Nixon's approach to open China, Sen. Jackson followed soon to China himself and made friends with Chinese leaders from Premier Zhou Enlai to Deng Xiaoping, the most powerful vice premier. Here in the picture you see Sen. Jackson and Mrs. Jackson meeting with Zhou Enlai in 1974. (Image presumably by the late Du Xiuxian, Zhou Enlai's official photographer, via Sohu via Baidu.)

1974 (May): Governor Evans Led First American Governors Delegation to China

Gov. Evans' trip to China in the news

In mid-May for ten days, Governor Dan Evans, chairman of the National Governors Conference, led five other state governors to China at the invitation of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs. Theirs was only the fourth delegation of American officials to visit China since President Nixon’s trip there in 1972. China’s Vice Premier Li Xiannian met and hosted a dinner for the delegation at which Governor Evans even gave his remarks in Chinese! Besides Beijing, the group toured Changsha, Hangzhou, Xian, and Shanghai, including farm communities. It was not a trade mission, Governor Evans told the press, but a “people to people program.” (Image source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via King County Library System.)

1975: Stan Barer Began Re-Establishing U.S.-China Shipping

Barers and Li Zhiran

Former aide to Sen. Magnuson and a young attorney, Stan Barer went to China in 1975 for his fireworks and shipping clients. After fireworks business in Guangzhou, Barer went to Beijing. With a number of failed attempts, he finally succeeded getting an appointment through a hotel chandelier with China's Minister of Agriculture & Forestry and found a solution to a long-standing collision dispute between one of his client's vessels and a Chinese fishing boat. That began his four-year odyssey to re-establish bilateral shipping between the U.S. and China and to bring a Chinese ship to Seattle. Seen here is Stan and Alta Barer with shipping official Li Zhiran in Beijing. (Image provided by Stan Barer.)

1977 (May): Seattle Chamber of Commerce Sent First Business Group to China

Chamber China visit news 1977
After President Nixon’s visit in 1972, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, under George Duff, the Washington Council on Int'l Trade, the Port of Seattle, the State's Dept. of Commerce and the Washington State Int'l Trade Fair began making requests to the Chinese liaison office in D.C. to visit China. They succeeded in 1977. In May, the Chamber put together a group of 20 people, representing Boeing, Paccar, Weyerhaeuser, Frederic & Nelson, a couple of companies from East Washington, city and port. They also formed a Washington State Committee for China Trade. Mike Berry, president of SeaFirst Bank, served as chairman. The group spent ten days in China, in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuxi, sightseeing and visiting factories, farms and port facilities. While the Chinese called it a friendship tour, George Duff said the group planted seeds that grew into future business. (Image source: Centralia Daily Chronicle, May 18, 1977 via KCLS.)

1979 (February): Deng Xiaoping Came to Seattle

Mayor Royer welcoming Deng

After three decades of no relations, January 1st 1979 brought the normalization of the diplomatic relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China. As the "Architect" of China's reforms, Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping made his first official visit to the U.S. After meeting with President Jimmy Carter and touring Atlanta and Houston, he came to Seattle in early February. During his two-day stay, he met with old friends Sen. Magnuson and Sen. Jackson, toasted with 600 people at a luncheon and toured Boeing. Seen here is Deng being greeted by Mayor Charley Royer and a welcoming party at Boeing Field. (Image provided by Mayor Royer.)

1979 (April): Liu Lin Hai Docked at Port of Seattle

Welcome Liu Lin Hai's maiden voyage to America

Three months after the normalization, on April 18, the first Chinese cargo ship Liu Lin Hai, 柳林海, arrived at the Port of Seattle. It was the culmination of years of work on both sides, especially by Stan Barer, and a dream come true for many, especially for Sen. Magnuson. It was also a reciprocal event, as the first American ship, Letitia Lykes, also arrived in Shanghai a month earlier. Here you see Sen. Magnuson with the crowd, and behind them the streamer in Chinese says: "Celebrating the successful maiden voyage of Liu Lin Hai to the United States." (Image source: Port of Seattle archives.)

Celebrating Liu Lin Hai

The joyous atmosphere of the event continues on in this picture. Here you see smiles all-around, from Liu Lin Hai's Captain Bei Hanting, in uniform standing, to China's first Ambassador to the U.S. Chai Zemin, holding glass, Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Transportation Secretary Brock Adams, Governor Dixy Lee Ray and others. (Image provided by Bob Royer.)

1979 (May): WCIT Took Their Initiative on Trade with China

WCIT and Fang Yi

In May, Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) sent its "Trade Relations Mission to the People's Republic of China." Headed by its president Dr. George Taylor, who helped found the Council in 1973, the delegation included members from Port of Seattle, Port of Tacoma, University of Washington, Washington State University, Boeing, and Bonneville Power Administration. They met with Chinese Vice Premier Fang Yi and Chinese trade, port, power, aviation and communications officials and toured Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Here is the delegation with Vice Premier Fang. (Image source: WCIT archives.)

1979 (August): First Statewide Nonprofit on China Was Born

China Council formed

In August, with the belief that there should be a separate council solely devoted to China, a group of business and civic leaders formed the Washington State China Relations Council, a first of such an organization in the country. It was designed, as described in this clip, to bring together major interests from business, government and academia to help develop economic and cultural ties with China. Serving as the founding president was Robert Anderson, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce and Economic Development. Robert Kapp, China scholar and a professor at UW, was the first executive director. (Image source: Seattle Public Library microfiche.)

1979 (September): Dixy Lee Ray Took First WA Trade Mission to China

Deng meeting Ray delegation

In September, at the personal invitation of Deng Xiaoping, Governor Dixy Lee Ray led the first state trade mission of any of the 50 states to China. While in Beijing, she and Deng talked about potential trade and technological cooperation between China and Washington state, as well as Deng's chain smoking and her pet dog. Here you see the Washington delegation with Deng in the middle, Ray next to him on the left and Robert Anderson on the far right. The trip, including a visit to Shanghai, was recorded in a documentary titled "Seattle to China: 16 hours ahead, 40 years behind," narrated by then KOMO TV news anchor Ruth Walsh McIntyre. (Image source: Washington State China Relations Council archives.)

1979 (September): Port of Seattle and Port of Shanghai Became First Sister Ports between U.S. and China

Seattle Shanghai Sister Ports
When Vice Minister Peng Deqing of China’s Ministry of Communications was in Seattle for Liu Lin Hai, Port of Seattle officials discussed with him possible sister port relations with Port of Shanghai. Jim Dwyer, Senior Dir. of Port Development and Relations, followed up with a letter campaign to the Ministry, joined by Port of Seattle Commission president Henry Kotkins, Governor Ray, King Co. Exec. Spellman, Mayor Royer, Sen. Magnuson, Sen. Jackson and Transportation Secy Brock Adams. On September 25, 1979 in Shanghai, Richard Ford, Exec. Dir. of Port of Seattle and Li Chisan, Dep. Dir. of Port of Shanghai, signed the friendship port agreement, a first between the two countries. (Image source: Port of Seattle archives.)

1982: Spellman Signed Friendship Relations with Sichuan

Gov. Spellman met by Gov. Lu Dadong

With the visit to Seattle by Deng Xiaoping, a Sichuan native, and the successful market-oriented reforms in Sichuan by Zhao Ziyang, later China's premier, the Washington State China Relations Council suggested a friendship relationship between Washington and Sichuan. With the help of Governor Ray putting a word through Deng, the work by Kapp, Council's executive director, and mutual interest and efforts, Governor John Spellman with a Washington delegation arrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, in October 1982. There he signed the agreement of the friendship state/province relationship with Governor Lu Dadong, seen here greeting Spellman at the airport. (Image provided by the Washington State Legacy Project.)

1983: Royer Inked Sisterhood with Chongqing

Seattle Chongqing sister cities signing

With the establishment of Washington-Sichuan friendship state relations, it was natural that Seattle was interested in a Chinese sister city in the same province, according to Mayor Charles Royer. Seattle wanted a port city, according to Bill Stafford, former deputy mayor. It got Chongqing, on Yangtze River, in an "arranged marriage" by the Chinese government. Seattle sent a delegation to Chongqing in 1982 for a memorandum and a Chongqing delegation came to Seattle in 1983. On June 3rd, as seen here, Mayor Royer and Mayor Yu Hanqing of Chongqing signed the sister city agreement in City Council Chambers. (Image source: Seattle Municipal Archives.)

1985: Gardner Led Team Washington to China

Gov. Gardner China trip

In October 1985, Governor Booth Gardner led a trade mission to China. Called Team Washington, the delegation included more than 50 state and local officials and representatives of private organizations and businesses. Gardner met with Vice Premier Li Peng and other top Chinese government as well as Sichuan provincial officials. At the end of the visit, according to the Seattle Times, Gardner said that relations with China may not bear rich economic fruit for at least ten years. But to be successful in China, he said, one had to be willing to establish deep-seated personal relationships often preceding commercial ones. (Image source: Seattle Public Library microfilm.)

1987: Spokane Signed on Jilin City as Sister

Spokane and Jilin 1987

On May 29th in Spokane, Mayor Vicki McNeill and Mayor Wang Guang Cai signed the sister city agreement between Washington’s second largest city and the city Jilin, capital of Jilin province in northeast China. Discussions had been going on from a year before when Mayor McNeill visited China. Jilin was interested in Spokane’s wine industry, metallurgical industry and genetic engineering for dairy cattle. Spokane was interested in Jilin as a trading partner. Seen here is Mayor McNeill receiving a vase from Mayor Wang, who received from McNeill a framed photograph of Spokane and a wood engraving of the city seal. (Source: The Spokesman-Review via Google.)

1993: Jiang Zemin Came to APEC in Seattle

Jiang Zemin visits a Seattle family

From Nov. 19-20, 1993, APEC held its first Economic Leaders Meeting in Seattle. President Bill Clinton, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other Asia Pacific leaders met and produced here the "Seattle Declaration - APEC Leaders Economic Vision Statement." According to The Seattle Times, Robert Kapp, executive director of the Washington State China Relations Council, worked for more than two years to bring APEC to Seattle. The Seattle P-I noted that Jiang was the first Chinese leader to visit the U.S. after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown had sent the bilateral relations in a downward spiral. Seen here is Jiang Zemin visiting a Boeing worker's family. (Image source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via King County Library System.)

1994 (April): Lowry Opened First WA Trade Office in China

Lowry meeting Jiang Zemin

Soon after APEC, in April 1994, Governor Mike Lowry took his own trade mission to China. While there, he met with President Jiang Zemin, shown here, and Sichuan Governor Xiao Yang. They talked about trade, cooperation, cultural and sports exchanges. A strong advocate for China's MFN trade status, Governor Lowry said that the best thing we could do for human rights in China was to maintain a strong trading relationship. Serving on the White House Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee on Trade, Governor Lowry also opened the state's first trade office in China, in Shanghai, in 1996. (Image source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via King County Library System.)

1994 (Nov.): Tacoma Got Sister Fuzhou with Xi Jinping as Witness

Xi Jinping in 1993

On Nov. 16th, Connie Bacon, then executive director of the World Trade Center Tacoma, was in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province. Representing Mayor Harold Moss of Tacoma, she signed the sister-city protocol with Mayor Jin Nengchou of Fuzhou, with two witnesses: Xi Jinping, then Communist Party Secretary/Chairman of the Municipal People's Congress of Fuzhou; G. Eugene Martin, U. S. Consul General in Guangzhou. In fact, Xi together with Fujian Communist Party chief Chen Guangyi had visited Tacoma in October 1993 to discuss sister city relations and met with Governor Lowry. It was Connie Bacon who had spearheaded the sister city program during her trade missions to China since 1992. (Image source: fznews via Baidu.)

1997: Locke Combined Trade with Ancestral Village Tour

Locke visiting ancestral home Taishan

The pull of China was more than trade when it came to Gary Locke. In October, 1997, nine months into his office, Governor Locke made his trade-plus-ancestral-home visit to China, along with representatives from agriculture, business, education and telecommunications. President Jiang Zemin met Locke and expressed his personal pride in Locke's election as the first Chinese American governor in the United States, as did thousands of Locke's ancestral villagers in Taishan, Guangdong, turning out for him. Locke said the trip was very successful in establishing relationships so important in doing business in Asia. In 2004, Locke opened the state's second trade office in China, this time in Guangzhou. (Image source: Xinhua via Sohu via Baidu.)

2006: Hu Jintao Came to Dinner at Gates' House

Gary Locke, Hu Jintao, Christine Gregoire

On April 18, Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Seattle on his four-day visit to the United States at the invitation of President Bush. By coming to this Washington first, Hu wanted to emphasize bilateral economic and trade relations, especially when Americans complained about China's trade surplus and currency manipulation. Hu highlighted his point by dining at Bill Gates' house and donning a baseball cap with the Boeing logo. In a statement, Hu said that Evergreen State and Emerald City had served as important American gateways to China, and that economic exchanges between China and Washington state had registered rapid expansion, contributing to the overall growth of China-U.S. relations. (Image source: ycwb via Baidu)

2010 (April): Washington Got a Confucius Institute

CIWA inauguration

In 2006, Governor Christine Gregoire talked to President Hu Jintao in Seattle about establishing a Confucius Institute in Washington. In 2009, an agreement was signed in Beijing by Hanban of the Ministry of Education, University of Washington and Seattle Public Schools. In April 2010, with a memorandum signed by Governor Gregoire, Director-General Xu Lin of Hanban, UW Provost Phyllis Wise and Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools Maria Goodloe-Johnson, the Confucius Institute of the State of Washington (CIWA) officially opened, with an office on UW campus. Confucius Institutes are non-profit initiatives by the Chinese government to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries. (Image source: Sichuan University via Baidu.)

2010 (Sept.): Gregoire Promoted Washington in Shanghai

Gregoire in Shanghai

In addition to promoting Washington's exports to China as all her predecessors had done, Governor Gregoire also began efforts to attract Chinese investment to the state. She attended the Washington Day at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 to promote Washington's tourism while happily reporting how Washington cherries were selling for $45 a pound at a market there. As the chair of the National Governors Association, Governor Gregoire also led a U.S.-China Governors Forum delegation to China in 2011, emphasizing that U.S. states were open and eager for Chinese investments. Seen here is Governor Gregoire promoting Almond Roca in Shanghai. (Image source: Xinhuanet via Baidu)