Congressmen Kirk and Larsen with Chairman Wu Bangguo
The National Committee’s involvement in Congressional delegations to China was renewed shortly after China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC) attempted acquisition of UNOCAL failed due to Congressional objections. This was a vivid reminder of the importance of the American Congress in U.S.-China relations and the valuable role that the National Committee could play in Congressional leadership education.
The National Committee took a major step in this direction in January 2006 when, for the first time in many years, it escorted the two co-chairs of the newly formed bipartisan Congressional U.S.-China Working Group (USCWG), Rick Larsen (D-Washington) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), and a member of the Working Group, Tom Feeney (R-Florida) to China. National Committee president Stephen Orlins accompanied the delegation, which also included the two co-staff directors of the USCWG. With a focus on border and security issues, the delegation was the first foreign group since 1989 to visit the manned-space launch center in Jiuquan, where the Vice Space Administrator agreed to work with NASA in developing a joint space rescue capability.
The National Committee has continued arranging and escorting visits to China for USCWG members. In 2007, we sent a delegation to Beijing, Urumqi, Kashgar, and Shanghai, to discuss Olympic security, U.S.-China defense cooperation and a military-to-military hotline, food and product safety, border security, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics trafficking, and trade and economic policy; in 2009, we organized a delegation visit to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, with a primary focus on economic and trade issues; in 2011, we led a delegation to Beijing, Qingdao, and Chengdu to explore security issues and military to military relations.
Most recently, in January 2013, we sent five Members of Congress — Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA and USCWG co-chair), Mike Turner (R-OH), Jim Costa (D-FL and USCWG member), Leonard Lance (R-NJ and USCWG member), and Billy Long (R-MO) — to Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong. In Shanghai and Hong Kong, the delegation focused its attention on the business climate for American companies operating in mainland China and Hong Kong. In Beijing, the meetings, including ones in Beijing with Vice Premier Wang Qishan and senior officials at the Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Railways, focused on China’s political transition — what it means for economic and political reform in China and what it suggests for the Sino-American relationship. The delegation was escorted by NCUSCR president Stephen Orlins, as well as political scientist Mary Gallagher, a Fellow in the NCUSCR's Public Intellectuals Program.