WA China Watch Digest Special

Year-end special: Top ten Washington state-China stories of 2017

Wa China 2017 Top TenBy Wen Liu   Dec. 22, 2017

Another year, another chance at this fun exercise: ranking the top ten Washington state-China news stories over the last 12 months. Here is a look back at 2017, from 1 to 10. Did you follow them? How would you rank them?

1. Lt. Gov. Habib visited Sichuan for 35th anniversary of WA-Sichuan relations

Lt. Gov. Habib in Chengdu. Source: scwqb.gov.cn screenshot.Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib visited Chengdu, Sichuan from Sept. 10-11, marking the 35th anniversary of the Washington and Sichuan friendly relations. He met with mayor of Chengdu Luo Qiang and Vice Governor of Sichuan Zhu Hexin. Habib also attended the U.S.-China “2+2” Clean Energy Forum in Chengdu, an event of cooperation between Sichuan province, Washington state, Tsinghua University and the University of Washington. Governor Jay Inslee, who had initially signed on the “2+2” MOU in 2015, did not go to China in August as announced earlier this year.

2. Chinese Provinces–Washington State Trade and Investment Forum held in Seattle

Chinese Provinces-WA Trade & Investment ForumForum. Source: mofcom.gov.cn screenshot.In July, the Chinese Provinces–Washington State Trade and Investment Forum took place in Seattle, a first-of-its-kind forum, as president of the Washington State China Relations Council Mercy Kuo called it. Among the attendees were Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib, Washington State Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender, Chenghai Sun, a Director of China’s Ministry of Commerce, and 170 delegates representing Shanghai, Guangdong, Liaoning, Shaanxi, Hunan, Beijing, Washington state counties and cities, and Alibaba, East West Bank, Inspur, ICBC, JD.com, Modern Land, WSP, and ZTE.

3. Boeing, COMAC signed agreement on Zhoushan completion and delivery center

Boeing, Comac signing. Source: NetEase screenshot. In September, Boeing and Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) signed a joint venture agreement on Boeing’s first overseas completion and delivery center, located in Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province. Boeing invested $33 million with 60% share and COMAC at $22 million with 40%. The center, under construction since May, will do cabin installation, painting, flight testing, and aircraft maintenance. Boeing expects the plant go into operation next May, and by the end of 2018, deliver the first single-aisle B737 MAX plane directly to a Chinese domestic airline.

4. Global Innovation Exchange opened its doors to first group of students

GIX opens. Source: tsinghua.edu.cn screenshot.Also in September, GIX, the institute jointly run by the UW and Tsinghua University of China, with $40 million funding from Microsoft, opened its doors in Bellevue. Gov. Jay Inslee, VIPs from Microsoft, UW, Tsinghua attended the grand opening. 43 students from China and the U.S. started classes two weeks later in its project-based, team-oriented programs, for a 15-month master’s program at $54,000 or a 21-month program for two degrees— one from the UW, and one from Tsinghua, at $77,000. The Seattle Times described GIX as “designed to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

5. China is building a nuclear power plant designed by Bill Gates’ TerraPower

Gates and China nuclear power group. Source: sohu screenshot.In September again, China National Nuclear Power Co. announced a joint venture to build and operate in Hebei province a “traveling wave reactor,” developed by Bellevue, WA-based TerraPower, whose chairman is Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Partners included China National Nuclear Corp, Canada’s SNC-Lavalin, Shanghai Electric Group, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For his role as founder and chairman of TerraPower, Bill Gates was also elected in November an academician of China’s top organization for scientists and engineers: the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

6. Starbucks opened its Shanghai Roastery

Starbucks Shanghai Roastery. Source: Yahoo screenshot.On Dec. 5, Starbucks opened its first international Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai, employing more than 400 people, and serving up to 550 customers at a time. The Shanghai store, at 30,000 sq ft, is twice as large as the one in Seattle, according to the Seattle Times. Currently running 3,000 stores in China and planning to open 5,000 by 2021, executive chairman Howard Schultz said, according to Yahoo, Starbucks would more quickly achieve 10,000 stores in China. He also predicted that one day China would have twice as many stores than the U.S.

7. Costco opened flagship store on Tmall, physical store to open soon in Shanghai

Costco Tmall Store. Source: Tmall screenshot.Once more in September, the Issaquah, WA-based Costco launched its official flagship store, with furniture, consumer electronics and wine, on the Tmall platform run by Alibaba. Yicai Global reported that Costco also decided to open its first retail warehouse in mainland China, in Shanghai. With its Tmall store and likely a license to build stores in China, a Baird analyst believed, according to CNBC, that COST’s first physical store in China could happen within the next year or two. Currently, Costco already has stores in Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

8. BAT is complete in Greater Seattle

BAT. Source: Baidu screenshot.In October, Baidu, the leading Chinese-language Internet search engine, opened an engineering office in Bellevue, according to GeekWire, expanding its reach in artificial intelligence and the cloud, with room for as many as 40 people in the first year. China News Service reported that with Alibaba and Tencent having already opened their office earlier in the region, China’s BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) was now complete in Seattle. In addition, Huawei, the telecommunications giant, was moving its consumer headquarters to Seattle, as reported in November by the PSBJ.

9. Seattle the new Vancouver for Chinese home buyers

Seattle now Vancouver. Source: Baidu screenshot.In February, the Wall Street Journal carried this headline, “For Chinese Home Buyers, Seattle Is the New Vancouver.” The 15% tax on foreign investment imposed by British Columbia, the report said, had a chilling effect on Chinese buyers, whose searches of Vancouver properties dropped 37% while those for Seattle properties jumped 125% by late 2016. As an example of how Chinese real-estate buyers were descending on the city, WSJ said, when an open house for a new $2.3 million listing was held in the Seattle metro area, twenty groups of buyers visited the property, all of them were Chinese.

10. Chinese nationals arrested in marijuana bust in West Washington

Illegal pot bust. Source: The Chronicle screenshot. The Chronicle reported on Nov. 30 that investigators led by the Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force executed 50 search warrants at suspected marijuana grow operations tended by Chinese nationals in Grays Harbor, Thurston and King counties earlier. They made 44 arrests, confiscated $80 million in plants, 26 vehicles, and found $400,000 in cash and gold. Illegal marijuana grows involving Chinese nationals in states that have legalized marijuana were becoming increasingly common, the report quoted Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate of the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office.

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