–by Steve Livengood
(continued from Part I)
Hainan is the large island off the south coast of China in the South China Sea. Because of its tropical climate, the Chinese government has made a major commitment to development as a tourist area. Everywhere around Haikou, the capital and location of the university and the college, one can see construction on a massive scale. One apartment development had 18 enormous cranes working on constructing buildings of 30 and 40 stories. The development commitment came as part of the government’s response to the economic slowdown in trade, to stimulate domestic demand in China to fill the gap in declining trade. Some indications are that demand for the new housing has not absorbed the supply, and some of the projects are standing empty.
Professor Cao also took Steve to visit the Boao Forum for Asia conference center in the beach resort of Boao east of Haikou. Along the way, the highway passed through agricultural areas with rice paddies, papaya trees, and water buffalo working in the fields – the local economy being steadily displaced by the new bustling commerce of modern development. The area has no industrial history, so the contrast between ancient agricultural practices and new development is particularly striking.
The Boao conference center is a showcase for the Chinese government, with the Boao Forum for Asia as means for organizing and asserting Asian leadership in an Asian setting with Western observers but not Western dominance. Twenty-six Asian and Pacific nations have joined in the Forum. Americans who have participated in the Forum include President Barack Obama, then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Bill Gates.
The streets and roads around Haikou were filled beyond capacity with automobiles, mostly Japanese and Korean and some American. Parking has not kept up with demand, so it is a serious issue in the settled parts of the island. Steve experienced a traffic jam of more than two hours returning from Boao to Haikou – bringing back recollections of such problems in the Washington suburbs in the past.
Professor Cao came to Washington as delegate to a conference on American studies sponsored by the US-China Education Trust. Steve met her as part of that conference program for Chinese delegates. The U.S. Capitol Historical Society hopes to continue contacts with Chinese visitors and interested scholars.
China is an exciting place to see at this time in its history. Change is rapid and brings rising expectations, new problems, and new opportunities. The U.S. Capitol Historical Society is glad to have had this opportunity for contact and dialog.