2016 Independence Day Reception – Consul General Remarks

Good afternoon, Vice Governor Mr. Bing Zhigang, CPPCC Liaoning Vice Chairman Mr. Teng Weiping, fellow consuls general and distinguished guests from all over Northeast China, welcome to our celebration of the 240th birthday of the United States of America!

This is my third year celebrating Independence Day with you, and as many of you know, it will also be my last. I want to say that my family and I have had an unforgettable and wonderful three years getting to know the warm people, the beautiful places and delicious food of this vital region of China. As we move on to other places, we will always have a heartfelt connection to the Dongbei.  Thanks to all of you for your kindness and cooperation over the past three years!

But today is not about goodbyes. In the fine American tradition, today is about eating, drinking and meeting old and new friends, so I really hope that everybody will relax and enjoy themselves. I do want to say a very special word of thanks to the many sponsors of today’s event for their support and generous contributions.  Thank you so much for your help!

President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping declared 2016 to be the US – China Tourism year.  This year also marks the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park System. To celebrate today we have prepared a virtual tour of the sights, sounds, and tastes of our great land. I hope that you will explore the displays and learn about some of our great travel destinations and our distinctive foods, from famous fast food brands to regional specialties.

Perhaps these sights and tastes will inspire you to take the next step and visit the United States during this US-China Tourism Year. As the Daode Jing says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Here in Shenyang we have an issued over 130,000 visas in the last year to Dongbei residents who plan to take that first step and  travel, do business, or study in the United States. Each year, approximately 2 million Chinese and Americans travel across the Pacific for the same purpose, boosting our economies, increasing trade, and establishing stronger people-to-people ties and strengthening  mutual trust and benefit.

President Obama and President Xi have themselves made that journey several times this past year, including President Xi’s first visit State visit to the U.S. last September. At that time he noted that while China and the United States differ in many ways, these differences need not be an impediment to cooperation, but can be an opportunity to learn.  President Xi quoted the Book of Rites saying “Learning alone without exchanges with others will lead to ignorance.”

There are some in both of our countries who want to restrict contact between our peoples and who are suspicious of open interaction and the open exchange of ideas, information and culture.  They are wrong.

In truth we cannot “learn alone without exchange,” and that is what makes the work we do at the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang so important, so enriching, and also so fun. In interacting with students at local universities, welcoming the public to our talks on U.S. culture, and engaging with government and business contacts in the community we gain an opportunity to learn from one another. We use these opportunities to understand what makes our countries different and strengthen the values that our countries share. We gain the mutual understanding that lays the foundation for our cooperation on matters big and small.

This fall our President will again make the journey across the ocean to meet with President Xi at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou. I am confident that this meeting between our Presidents will lead to greater cooperation at the highest levels of government. But more importantly, I hope that it also creates expanded opportunities for exchange, cooperation, and interaction here in Northeast China.

So again, let me thank you all for coming today and for being such great friends and colleagues over the past three years. I know you will share the same warmth and welcoming spirit with my successor as you have with me.

Happy American Independence Day to everyone!