Tom Kl­it­gaard: Cul­ti­va­tor for US-China re­la­tions BIO

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By Qi­dong Zhang in San Fran­cisco kel­lyzhang@chi­nadai­

One day in 1985, a Red Flag li­mou­sine pulled up in front of a US del­e­ga­tion that had just ar­rived at Hongqiao In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Shang­hai. The driver got out, and put up a large name board for “Mr Thomas Kl­it­gaard”, one of the del­e­ga­tion mem­bers. They soon found out the car had been sent by the mayor of Shang­hai, Wang Dao­han, es­pe­cially to pick up Kl­it­gaard.

At the time, Kl­it­gaard, then an at­tor­ney and part­ner at Pills­bury, Madi­son & Sutro, was one of the first Amer­i­cans who went to Shang­hai with US Se­na­tor (then Mayor) Dianne Fe­in­stein in 1980 to es­tab­lish a sis­ter-city re­la­tion­ship be­tween Shang­hai and San Fran­cisco, only a few months af­ter the US and China nor­mal­ized diplo­matic re­la­tions.

“Dianne Fe­in­stein thought that the de­vel­op­ment of a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Shang­hai would be a tremen­dous ben­e­fit to San Fran­cisco and that nor­mal­iza­tion pre­sented op­por­tu­ni­ties for San Fran­cisco and the United States that were go­ing to hap­pen only once in a life time, so she ini­ti­ated the trip of about 20 people to go to China with her to open a new page in his­tory,” Kl­it­gaard said.

De­scrib­ing Fe­in­stein as “per­cep­tive, ex­cep­tion­ally smart and ex­tremely in­no­va­tive in de­vel­op­ing cul­tural, gov­ern­men­tal and trade re­la­tions with Shang­hai and China, he said the re­la­tion­ship started with great chem­istry.

“Not long into the con­ver­sa­tion and a few vis­its, we found Jiang Zemin, then the mayor of Shang­hai, and Dianne thought­fully and en­er­get­i­cally mov­ing for­ward on sig­nif­i­cant projects based on mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and re­spect,” Kl­it­gaard said.

“Be­fore our trip, the China side was also eval­u­at­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of es­tab­lish­ing sis­ter-city re­la­tion­ships with Los Angeles and Chicago. Dianne told them, ‘You can’t have two sis­ters.’ The China side re­al­ized how se­ri­ous she was and then joined with San Fran­cisco in a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to es­tab­lish the first sis­ter-city pro­gram be­tween the US and China.”

Two im­por­tant things hap­pened dur­ing that trip, ac­cord­ing to Kl­it­gaard, who grew up in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area. One was the es­tab­lish­ment of a Chi­nese con­sulate in San Fran­cisco, which was pro­posed by Fe­in­stein; the other was a man­age­ment train­ing pro­gram for mid-level up and com­ing Shang­hai busi­ness man­agers pro­posed by then Shang­hai Mayor Wang Dao­han.

“China es­sen­tially had no friends at the time Dianne’s view was to be friends with China, make con­tacts, and in­tro­duce the busi­ness and cul­ture of San Fran­cisco to Shang­hai, and of Shang­hai to San Fran­cisco, es­pe­cially since the two cities had shared spec­tac­u­lar his­to­ries in the past,’’ he said.

Kl­it­gaard be­came re­spon­si­ble for the train­ing pro­gram, the first be­tween the US and China since 1949, and ad­min­is­tered it for more than 20 years with the help of many mem­bers of the San Fran­cisco-Shang­hai Sis­ter City

had formed the com­mit­tee, which in­cluded many prom­i­nent and suc­cess­ful mem­bers of the lo­cal Chi­nese com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing Gor­don J. Lau, a Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can mem­ber of the San Fran­cisco Board of Su­per­vi­sors who be­came kind of an icon in Shang­hai for his work in build­ing bridges be­tween the two cities, as well as many lo­cal Amer­i­can busi­ness and cul­tural lead­ers, as part of de­vel­op­ing re­la­tions with China and Shang­hai. I was one of the found­ing di­rec­tors of the com­mit­tee,” Kl­it­gaard said.

Un­der an MOU signed by Jiang and Fe­in­stein, Chi­nese man­agers would be sent to San Fran­cisco to study eco­nom­ics and busi­ness man­age­ment, and the US side would send pro­fes­sors and busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als to Shang­hai to pro­vide in­struc­tion on those and other sub­jects at uni­ver­si­ties in Shang­hai. This was to in­clude hands-on in­tern­ship pro­grams for the Chi­nese man­agers at businesses in Cal­i­for­nia and else­where in the US at the end of the for­mal in­struc­tion.

The pro­gram trained al­most 100 Chi­nese man­agers selected by the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Govern­ment and later by China’s State-owned As­sets Su­per­vi­sion and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mis­sion, Pudong Branch. Many of the grad­u­ates have be­come high rank­ing of­fi­cers in the Chi­nese govern­ment and state cor­po­ra­tions. They were pi­o­neers in de­vel­op­ing a mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing of the un­der­ly­ing busi­ness cul­tures of San Fran­cisco and Shang­hai and ,in a broader sense, of the US and China. They in­terned


Born: 1934 • Grad­u­ate, Amos Tuck School of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­ec­u­tive pro­gram, Dart­mouth Col­lege (1990) • Grad­u­ate, ba­sic Man­darin Chi­nese lan­guage pro­gram, Mon­terey In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (1979) • LLB, Or­der of the Coif, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley Law School (1961) • Grad­u­ate in com­put­ers,

elec­tron­ics, an­ti­air­craft at businesses of all sizes and were ex­posed to the Amer­i­can en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit in Sil­i­con Val­ley and else­where.

Kl­it­gaard’s great-grand­fa­ther was a Dan­ish sail­ing-ship cap­tain en­gaged in the China trade in the 1860s and 1870s. His fa­ther was a mer­chant ma­rine en­gi­neer on tankers trans­port­ing kerosene to China in the 1920s. A grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco and of the Boalt Hall Law School at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, Kl­it­gaard be­gan his le­gal ca­reer as a law clerk for Supreme Court Jus­tice Wil­liam O. Dou­glas. He started a law prac­tice to ad­vise US businesses in­ter­ested in China in the 1980s with Pills­bury, Madi­son & Sutro, and helped to open the China mar­ket to businesses such as Pa­cific Te­le­sis (the in­ter­na­tional sub­sidiary of Pa­cific Bell) and Tan­dem Com­put­ers in the 1980s and 1990s.

His in­ter­est in China was so pro­found that he made it a con­di­tion at Pills­bury that the firm sup­ports him and his wife Pa­tri­cia’s study of the Chi­nese guided mis­sile sys­tems, US Army Guided Mis­sile School (1956-1957) • BA, summa cum laude, Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco (1956) • Law Clerk, US Supreme Court Jus­tice Wil­liam O. Dou­glas (1961-1962) • As­so­ciate, Gibson, Dunn

& Crutcher (1963-1964) • As­so­ciate, Pills­bury, Madi­son & Sutro (1964-1971) • Part­ner, Pills­bury, Madi­son

& Sutro (1971-1985) lan­guage. To­day on his desk are many Chi­nese proverb study sheets with pic­tures, such as “Shou Zhu Dai Tu” (Guard the Tree, Wait for the Rab­bit), “Bei Gong She Ying” (An il­lu­sory snake in a gob­let).

“I use Chi­nese id­ioms from time to time when com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my Chi­nese friends and in ar­bi­tra­tions and me­di­a­tions to help keep things in per­spec­tive, keep­ing in mind China’s an­cient wis­dom. The proverbs and id­ioms help ev­ery­one re­lax and con­cen­trate on sub­stance and think about re­al­ity,” Kl­it­gaard said.

He has been teach­ing a course on Asian le­gal sys­tems for the last nine years at the Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco Law School that fo­cuses on China, Hong Kong, Tai­wan, South Korea and else­where in Asia.

Kl­it­gaard also serves as vi­cepres­i­dent of the Chi­nese Cul­ture Foun­da­tion in San Fran­cisco, which has en­gaged over 60,000 people in in­ter­cul­tural dis­cov­ery of China through art and ed­u­ca­tion. Ma­bel Teng, the foun­da­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said Kl­it­gaard is a cham­pion and trail blazer for the foun­da­tion.

“He was elected chair­man of the board of di­rec­tors of the foun­da­tion in the 1980s, and has re­turned to the board as the vice-pres­i­dent to strate­gi­cally shape the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s fu­ture. Tom is truly the guardian an­gel of the Foun­da­tion and my role model,” Teng said.

She said that as one of the first non-Chi­nese-Amer­i­cans who have served on the foun­da­tion board, Kl­it­gaard’s ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship has con­trib­uted to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s trans­for­ma­tion to be­ing a highly re­spected leader in in­ter­cul­tural dis­cov­ery through art and ed­u­ca­tion.

“One of last year’s mile­stones was to spark dis­cov­ery on na­tional and in­ter­na­tional lev­els. The ex­hi­bi­tions of the Mo­ment for Ink, WOMEN, and Cu­rios­ity Box rep­re­sent a re­mark­able col­lab­o­ra­tion of arts or­ga­ni­za­tions to con­nect the City with Mi­ami, New York, Brazil, Shang­hai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong,” Teng said.

In 2011, the Shang­hai mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment pre­sented Kl­it­gaard its Mag­no­lia Sil­ver Award in a cer­e­mony at the city’s Xi Jiao State Guest House. Es­tab­lished in 1989, the award ac­knowl­edges the most out­stand­ing for­eign­ers who have made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the city of Shang­hai.

Among the 46 award re­cip­i­ents from 19 coun­tries, Kl­it­gaard was the only at­tor­ney who re­ceived the award. Kl­it­gaard is now a part­ner in the San Fran­cisco law firm of Dilling­ham & Mur­phy, LLP, where he does commercial and in­tel­lec­tual property lit­i­ga­tion. He is also an ad­viser on do­ing busi­ness with China.


Thomas Kl­it­gaard said Chi­nese id­ioms help keep things in per­spec­tive.

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