Sunday, June 12, 2005


‘Tourists’ from Hawaii
experience eye-opening
visit to Shanghai

Far East Journal
Shanghai, China » Day Three: The competition between new and old can be seen everywhere -- in the architecture and the people, and at most times it seems that the new is winning out.

The skyscrapers, whether they are office buildings, condominiums or hotels, tower over the remaining old sections of Shanghai.

With 17 million people crammed into 3,000 square miles it is impossible to preserve the old. And because of the Internet and a desire to compete in the global economy, it is impossible to keep the old ways.

The young people on the streets of Shanghai, cell phones pressed to their ears, could be easily mistaken for young people in Hawaii out for a movie or on the streets of New York on their way to Starbucks.

Because this is my first visit to China I am not able to compare with earlier experiences, but clearly the times are changing in Shanghai.

At a morning news conference yesterday with travel and business journalists from the country's major outlets, I answered questions about whether or not and when I thought Hawaii would be granted Approved Destination Status (ADS), did I believe it was possible to get a Hawaii-only visa and what are the newest attractions in Hawaii.

I stressed that a goal of our mission is to form "bonds of friendship" even though the number of Chinese visitors is currently limited by the lack of ADS status, easily obtainable visas and the lack of direct flights between China and Hawaii. I told them I hoped they would remember that we had visited them prior to gaining ADS status.

Tourism liaison Marsha Wienert spoke about the impressive redevelopment occurring in Waikiki and the new resort development at Ko Olina on Oahu's Leeward Coast. She reminded the journalists that we have six major islands and that each is unique with its own special attractions.

Most of the journalists were in their twenties and female, and more than one expressed an interest in my background as a journalist and a female politician. Very few of them have visited Hawaii but all of them want to.

Recently retired head of Pacific Command Adm. Thomas Fargo accompanies me to all events, which is helpful since he has spent so much time in China.

As we were leaving the Hawaii concert and promotion last night at Shanghai's famous Xintiandi, a wonderful urban gathering place of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, it was Fargo who noticed the police officers along the sidewalk decked out in orchid lei. Excited, we asked them to pose with us.

They were friendly and willing to accommodate us. It's interesting to be on the other side of the tourism fence for a change.

In a meeting Saturday morning with Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng, I expressed my thought that it would be good to have a direct flight between Shanghai and Honolulu. Mayor Han spoke graciously about the positive view the people of Shanghai have about Hawaii.

Earlier I had mentioned that Hawaii has only 1.2 million people compared to Shanghai's almost 20 million. Mayor Han joked that if we had direct flights he could "loan" us some more people. I let his suggestion pass without comment.

As I write this, in a few minutes I will leave for a luncheon address to the 6th International Symposium on Asia Pacific Architecture, which is co-sponsored by the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Architecture and the Tongji University College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

The symposium, which is being held in China for the first time, is focused on the effects of "mega-projects" and globalization on design and construction, and how to prosper in the changing global paradigm.

The location is perfect since Beijing will host the 2008 Olympics and Shanghai will be host to the World Expo two years later. Next year's symposium will be held in Honolulu as it has been for the past five years.

This evening I will head off to the eighth annual Shanghai International Film Festival. I will be joined by Honolulu International Film Festival executive director Chuck Boller and others from Hawaii. As a film buff, I am looking forward to seeing the feature film tonight, "Lu Xun."

It's early in my trip, but I can already sense the dynamic energy in the air. There is a tremendous sense of pride, hope and optimism among the local people I meet, including taxi drivers and other service sector workers. They are excited to be part of the global economy and community. I am excited to be here with them representing the people of Hawaii.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Beijing.

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