WA China Watch Digest Special

Year-end special: Top ten Washington state-China stories of 2016

By Wen Liu   Dec. 20, 2016

Another year, another chance to look back and rank the top ten Washington state-China news stories over the last 12 months. Here is an attempt with 2016, from 1 to 10. What do you think? Would you rank differently?

Murray and Ma Xingrui1. Mayor Murray of Seattle visiting China, signing nine agreements

Mayor Ed Murray led the 2016 International Leadership Mission to China in May, visiting Shenzhen, Hangzhou, repaying the visit to Seattle in Sept. 2015 by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Murray and the group signed nine agreements there, including joint research on precision medicine between UW and BGI, trade and economic cooperation between Shenzhen and Hangzhou, and cooperation between Washington State China Relations Council and Shenzhen Foundation.

Strickland and Wan Yong2. Mayor Strickland of Tacoma visiting China, establishing ties with Wuhan

Mayor Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma took a business delegation to China in April and visited Wuhan and Shanghai, also repaying the visit to Tacoma in Sept. 2015 by President Xi Jinping of China. In Wuhan, Mayor Strickland signed a “friendly exchange city” agreement between Tacoma and Wuhan. In Shanghai, the delegation held a Reception & Tacoma Convention Hotel Project Press Conference, met government officials and visited a school.

Lincoln High in HK3. Lincoln High students visiting China as Xi Jinping’s guests

A group of 97 students and 21 teachers from Lincoln High School of Tacoma visited China in October as the guests of President Xi Jinping, who first extended the invitation in Sept. 2015 while visiting the school. The Abes visited Fuzhou, Tacoma’s sister city, and spent time with students at their friendship school. They then visited Chengdu and went to see the pandas. In Beijing, they visited Xi Jinping’s alma mater middle school and met Ministry of Education officials.

Boeing in Zhoushan4. Boeing 737 Completion and Delivery Center in China signed

A year after the visit to Boeing by President Xi Jinping in Sept. 2015 and the news about Boeing planning a 737 completion center in China, Boeing held a joint announcement and signing ceremony with COMAC, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, in Hangzhou on Oct. 28. The Boeing 737 Completion and Delivery Center shall be located in Zhoushan, Zhejiang, a first such Boeing plant ever in another country. First delivery is expected by end of 2018.

GIX ground-breaking5. Global Innovation Exchange ground-breaking held

GIX, Global Innovation Exchange, the joint venture institute between University of Washington and Tsinghua University with investment from Microsoft, held its ground-breaking ceremony on Sept. 23 in Seattle, attended by Gov. Inslee, China Consul General LUO Linquan, Tsinghua President QIU Yong, and UW President Ana Mari Cauce. The first group of students majoring in Connected Devices already in school in Tsinghua will move to GIX Bellevue campus in September 2017.

Starbucks in China6. Starbucks planning to double its stores in China to 5,000

Starbucks announced in October that it would double its scale with plans to operate 5,000 stores in China by 2021. It had 400 stores in 2011, and it has over 2,300 stores today. Starbucks also announced earlier the opening of its first international Starbucks Roastery in Shanghai in 2017. For 2016, Starbucks reported fastest growth in the China and Asia Pacific region, at 23%. Starbucks boss Howard Schultz called the Chinese stores the most efficient and lucrative.

Juwai Seattle headline7. Seattle becoming No. 1 U.S. market for homebuyers from China

The Seattle Times reported in September that Seattle had become the No. 1 U.S. market for homebuyers from China, based on the inquiries received by Juwai.com, China’s biggest real-estate site, after British Columbia introducing a 15% tax on foreign buyers of real estate in July. According to the Times, Chinese money now accounts for 55% of all homes purchased by foreigners in Washington, and China buyers bought $1.6 billion in homes in Washington in 2015.

Xiamen Airline8. Xiamen Airlines launching non-stop flight between Shenzhen and Seattle

Xiamen Airlines launched its non-stop Shenzhen-Seattle flight in September. It is Xiamen Airlines' first U.S. flight and second North American flight, as it also flies from Xiamen to Vancouver, B.C. The airline flies a Boeing 787 Dreamliner three times a week, Mon., Wed. and Fri. According to Puget Sound Business Journal, this is the sixth non-stop flight from Seattle to China, with other ones to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai offered by Delta Air Lines and Hainan Airlines.

NWIW9. Northwest Innovation Works pulling out of its Tacoma methanol project

Northwest Innovation Works, the China-backed joint venture, announced in April that it terminated its proposed $3.4 billion methanol plant in Tacoma. The project had met strong opposition from environmentally-concerned Tacomans earlier this year. It was one of three methanol plants the company was going to build in the Northwest, totaling $5.2 billion. The other two, respectively in Kalama of Washington and Clatskanie in Oregon, are still on.

Sichuan pandas10. Panda Foundation optimistic getting pandas for Washington

Washington State Panda Foundation, seeking pandas from China since Xi Jinping’s visit in 2015, revealed in October that Chinese officials were hoped to come in March to decide which Washington zoo would be best for hosting pandas. The two local zoos, however, worry about the cost: $1 million a year for hosting pandas and up to $30 million to build a panda exhibit. The Foundation responded that private citizens and companies already expressed interest in the project.

(For more information on major events in Washington state-China relations, go to WA China Chronicle.)