Sue Zhang: Focuses on improving ties
Sue Zhang usually does not tell others that she’s a daughter of Zhang Zhizhong, who was a high-profile general in China and a well-recognized patriot.
However, people find that out through Zhang’s many volunteer efforts with Chinese organizations in the United States, the focus of which is promoting the USChina relationship.
Zhang is the youngest of three daughters, and also has two brothers. She was expected to be a boy and was raised like a boy, she said.
“Maybe that’s why I’m adventurous,” she said, “I learned how to swim when I was 3, horse ride when I was 10. I was a gymnast on my college team. And, in my 50s, I started to learn to ski and fell in love with it!”
Zhang has been leading several Chinese community groups, including the Tsinghua Education Foundation in North America and the Roundtable of Chinese American Organizations.
In 2007, Zhang wa s elected chairwoman of the Roundtable, working with more than 60 ChineseAmerican organizations in Southern California to bring the US and China closer.
Zhang has lived in the US for decades and her home in California is not far from Pasadena, which has been host for the world famous annual rose parade for more than 100 years.
But it was not until 2007 when the f irst Chinesethemed
f loat was parade.
“The f irst thing that I worked on was to bring a f loat representing China to the parade,” Zhang said. “At the time, Beijing was preparing for the 2008 Olympics It was especially meaningful to showcase our Olympics dream in the rose parade.”
Avery Dennison, a Fortune 500 company whose products include pressuresensitive adhesive materials and specialty medical products, also wanted a Chinesefloat because it has branches in China.
Zhang managed to obtain authorization f rom the Beijing Olympics Committee for the f loat. Avery Dennison agreed to provide $150,000 and Zhang needed to raise an additional $200,000.
“The economy was good in 2007,” Zhang said. “I called up 10 friends and asked each of them to donate $20,000. All of them did.”
With the money raised, Zha ng and he r t e am encountered other problems trying to get the float into the parade.
For example: Should the Roundtable of ChineseAmerican Organizations be listed first as a sponsor or Avery Dennison?
That issue was solved by everyone agreeing to honor
China’s holding of the Olympics instead of the names of f loat sponsors, she said.
Then the US Olympic Committee sought to charge $500,000 for Olympic copyright royalt ies, but that was resolved. And
the some ant i- China forces tried to sabotage the float. Most people thought the f loat would not become a reality, but Zhang persisted. “I was never discouraged,’’ she said. “I believed we would be successful.”
After numerous negotiations, on Jan 1, 2008, the China Olympics f loat passed by the rose parade podium. Zhang held hands with her team member from Avery Dennison and said: “We finally made it!”
But Zhang was not finished with floats. After the Beijing Olympics float, she began preparing one for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. With the support of the Shanghai Municipal Government Information Of f ice, she invited several Rose Parade committee members to the 2008 Shanghai Tourism Festival parade. Zhang also brought designers to Shanghai to become familiar with the city’s customs and styles.
“As a result, the designers captured the essence of the city of Shanghai, and it became another win-win cooperative ef fort from the two ends of the Pacific Ocean,” she said.
In 2012 when then- Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping visited the US, Zhang delivered a speech representing all Chinese Americans in Southern California at a party for Xi.
Zhang gave Xi a copy of her book In Memory of My Father: General Zhang Zhizhong, with an introduction written by Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun.
In May 2002, Zhang invited her father’s old friend, Xi Zhongxun, to write the book’s introduction. “I regret that he didn’t see the book published before he died in 2007,” she said of her father.
“Al l overseas Chinese have a common feeling: the further away we’re from our motherland, the closer our heart is to it,” Zhang said about living in the United States for decades.
While traveling back and forth between China and the US, she established an educational foundation in her father’s name to support needy students from Anhui province, her father’s home.
Zhang plans to produce a movie of her father in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“My intention is to help more people know about our ancestors’ efforts for nat ional independence, peaceful reuni f icat ion, rejuvenation and prosperity of our great nation,” she said. “We should toast the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation because it embodies the dream of several generations of Chinese.”
Sue Zhang (second from left) joins a protest with other community leaders against “racial discrimination” of a TV host about the Chinese people.