In 1989, trade and economic issues played a major role in the United States’ relationship with Southeast Asia, and people from that region desired a better understanding of how the American economy functioned and affected the global economy. This was the first regional program carried out by the National Committee: the delegation was comprised of eleven Cantonese-speaking journalists from the PRC, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia.
The itinerary included stops in Washington, D.C., New York City, Kansas, and the San Francisco Bay Area. In D.C., delegates met with Department of Commerce officials to discuss the government’s policies on tariffs and quotas, including the domestic factors that influence policy decisions and are usually obscure to foreign viewers. In New York, journalists from the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine briefed their Chinese counterparts on how technological change offers new opportunities and challenges. Living with American families in Kansas City taught the journalists about the basic actor in American economics—the worker. The program ended aptly enough with a meeting with Deputy Mayor James Ho of San Francisco, himself a Cantonese-speaking immigrant from Hong Kong, who spoke of the assimilation of recent immigrants into the American economy.
The study tour was remarkably successful in giving all the journalists a deeper and broader understanding of the American economy and trade policies. As conveyers of information, upon the journalists’ return to Southeast Asia they were better equipped to more accurately inform the public about the American economy.