Historic First

In 1990, as Congress was debating whether to renew trade benefits for China after the break over Tiananmen, the mayors of six of China's largest and most outward-looking cities came to the United States under the National Committee's auspices. The delegation, led by Shanghai's mayor and future PRC premier Zhu Rongji, included former Shanghai mayor Wang Daohan and the mayors of Wuhan, Chongqing, Taiyuan, Hefei, and Ningbo. It was the first high-level delegation to visit the United States in the wake of Tiananmen. The purpose of the program was to examine issues of urban management and the provision of critical human services, to promote economic development in China and economic relations between the two nations, and to foster forthright exchange and dialogue between China and the United States.

The Mayors' Delegation met with citizen and public affairs groups, as well as local- and national-level government officials, including National Security Advisor Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, former President Richard Nixon, Dr. Henry Kissinger, and several members of Congress, including Senator Robert Dole and Representative Nancy Pelosi. Reaching out to members of U.S. business circles, the mayors met with leaders of firms that had major business interests in China, such as J&J, 3M, Coca-Cola, and AT&T. The delegation members met with their American counterparts in each of the cities visited to discuss common environmental, transportation, housing, poverty, and other urban issues. A two-day seminar on environmental issues was held at the Johnson conference center in Racine, WI.

The American public reacted positively to the visit, primarily because of the frankness, down-to-earth manner, entrepreneurship, and technical backgrounds of all the mayors, particularly Zhu Rongji. The latter gave unscripted speeches (in both Chinese and English), and even appeared on the McNeil-Leher News Hour. His openness, energy, and can-do attitude impressed everyone, including the other mayors on the delegation, all of whom were impressive in their own right.

The National Committee was very pleased to have hosted such a distinguished delegation, particularly as such a difficult moment in the Sino-American relationship. Funding for the program came from the U.S. Information Agency, as well as from corporate and foundation grants, and from individual underwriters.

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