C-100 strength­ens US-China re­la­tions

It was founded 24 years ago and the two coun­tries it fo­cuses on have changed, but the mis­sion of the Com­mit­tee of 100 has not: to serve as a bridge be­tween the cul­tures and people of China and the United States, Qi­dong Zhang re­ports from San Fran­cisco.

China Daily (Canada) - - IN DEPTH -

The Com­mit­tee of 100 (C-100) is an in­vi­ta­tion-only mem­ber­ship or­ga­ni­za­tion with more than 150 Chi­nese Amer­i­cans who are US cit­i­zens of Chi­nese her­itage. They have achieved lead­er­ship po­si­tions in their fields of en­deavor and have a pas­sion­ate and ac­tive in­ter­est in C-100’s mis­sion.

The non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion was es­tab­lished in 1990 by a group of prom­i­nent Chi­nese Amer­i­cans aim­ing to serve as “cul­tural am­bas­sadors” and to fos­ter the ex­change of ideas and per­spec­tives among its mem­ber­ship with those in the com­mu­nity and govern­ment.

Its goal is to serve as a bridge be­tween the cul­tures and people of China and the US, pro­vid­ing a fo­rum for is­sues that Amer­i­cans of Chi­nese de­scent face in reach­ing their full po­ten­tial as US cit­i­zens.

For 24 years, C-100 has been ded­i­cated to the dual mis­sion of en­cour­ag­ing con­struc­tive re­la­tion­ships be­tween the people of the US and Greater China, and pro­mot­ing full par­tic­i­pa­tion of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans in all as­pects of Amer­i­can life.

Act­ing as ad­vis­ers to CEOs, part­ners to pol­icy mak­ers, trusted sources for lead­ers in govern­ment, and am­bas­sadors who bring people from the two coun­tries to­gether, C-100’s guid­ing prin­ci­ple is “Seek­ing Com­mon Ground While Re­spect­ing Dif­fer­ences.”

Ge­orge Koo, a mem­ber of C-100 since 1997 who has been speak­ing and writ­ing on per­spec­tives of US-China re­la­tions, racial pro­fil­ing of Chi­nese in Amer­ica and busi­ness strate­gies for Asia, says the or­ga­ni­za­tion has made tremen­dous ef­forts in “pool­ing its strengths and ex­pe­ri­ences to ad­dress im­por­tant is­sues con­cern­ing the Chi­nese-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, as well as is­sues af­fect­ing Sino-Amer­i­can re­la­tions.”

“Com­mit­tee of 100 was es­tab­lished in1989 by ar­chi­tect I.M. Pei and a hand­ful of prom­i­nent Chi­nese Amer­i­cans that he knew. He was ap­palled at the time by how lit­tle Western me­dia knew and un­der­stood about China. He did not feel that he should be the only per­son to ex­plain China, but that body of in­flu­en­tial Chi­nese Amer­i­cans to­gether could pro­vide a cred­i­ble voice of rea­son to ex­plain, and thus be­come a ra­tio­nal voice to pro­mote pos­i­tive bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween the US and China,” he said. ‘Re­spect­ing dif­fer­ences’

“A se­ries of white pa­pers were writ­ten by C-100 mem­bers on the theme of ‘Seek­ing Com­mon Ground, While Re­spect­ing Dif­fer­ences.’ When then pres­i­dent Clin­ton pre­pared to visit China in 1998, we were in­vited to pro­vide a brief­ing at the White House. Sub­se­quently, when Clin­ton vis­ited China, he spoke on that theme,” said Koo, who was a co-au­thor of the pa­pers.

Koo said that close to 100 mem­bers un­der the lead­er­ship of Shirley Young, the found­ing chair (1990-1995) and Henry Tang(1996-2002) con­cen­trated on in­ter­fac­ing with the US Congress and Se­nate to pro­mote an ac­tive voice of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans with pol­icy mak­ers.

Young served as cor­po­rate vice-pres­i­dent of Gen­eral Mo­tors (GM) in China and co-led its en­try into China with the Shang­hai-GM joint ven­ture build­ing Buicks.

Tang is a 30-year in­vest­ment-bank­ing vet­eran of Wall Street. He was a man­ag­ing part­ner of Jef­feries & Co and later founded Carnegie Tower Strate­gic In­vest­ment Ad­vi­sory.

“The group of us knew our way around in Wash­ing­ton and in­ter­acted with Con­gress­men, Sen­a­tors, mem­bers of con­gres­sional for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tees, mem­bers of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and ini­ti­ated dia­logues to seek mu­tual un­der­stand­ing,” said Koo.

“At that time the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship was very much in­flu­enced by bias and anti-China emo­tions, even things like eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion could be turned into China-bash­ing emo­tions. We did our best to neu­tral­ize ex­treme views, es­pe­cially views that were not based on facts. We tried to shed light to the truth,” he ex­plained.

Koo said the fol­low­ing decade of C-100 (2000-2010) was a very ac­tive bridge-build­ing pe­riod be­tween US and Chi­nese pol­icy mak­ers be­cause of ef­forts made by com­mit­tee mem­bers.

Dur­ing this time, the chair­men of C-100 were Robert Lee (2003-2005), chair­man of the board, Blue Shield of Cal­i­for­nia, who also served as pres­i­dent of Pa­cific Bell (now a part of AT&T); John Fugh (2006-2008), the first Chi­nese-Amer­i­can gen­eral in the US Army and judge ad­vo­cate gen­eral of the US Army; and John Chen (2009-2010), for­mer CEO of Sy­base, now Black­berry.

Un­der their lead­er­ship, groups of C-100 mem­bers vis­ited Chi­nese top-level of­fi­cials, with meet­ings held in Zhong­nan­hai com­pound with China’s then pre­mier Zhu Rongji, Hong Kong chief ex­ec­u­tive Tung Chee-hwa, and Tai­wan leader Ma Ying-jeou. Hav­ing met each of them sev­eral times him­self, Koo said it was vi­tally im­por­tant that C-100 mem­bers un­der­stood what each side was think­ing.

“We wanted to hear what their thoughts on the cross-the-bor­der re­la­tions and un­der­stand each side. I felt it was im­por­tant that we were there, lis­tened to what each side had to say and pass along their thoughts across, when po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment was tough and a nor­mal di­rect di­a­logue was dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble,” he said.

To pro­mote its mis­sion, C-100 is aligned with three core pro­grams: ed­u­ca­tion, diplo­macy and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment.

An Ping, pub­lic re­la­tions di­rec­tor of C-100, said an an­nual ed­u­ca­tional ex­change in­volves invit­ing four to five US lead­ers from busi­ness, civic com­mu­nity and me­dia to visit China. Most par­tic­i­pants are first-time vis­i­tors to China. Through the com­mit­tee’s vast net­works, del­e­gates re­ceive a first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of China and the op­por­tu­nity to meet vi­sion­ar­ies who are shap­ing the coun­try.

Some of the past del­e­gates in­clude Jill Abram­son, then man­ag­ing edi­tor of the New York Times; Rekha Basu, colum­nist of the Des Moines Reg­is­ter; David Brooks, colum­nist of the New York Times; Rana Fa­roohar, as­sis­tant man­ag­ing edi­tor of Time Mag­a­zine; Ni­cholas Gold­berg, edi­tor of the ed­i­to­rial pages of the Los Angeles Times and David Ig­natius, colum­nist of the Wash­ing­ton Post.

“Most of the vis­i­tors told us that they be­came more in­ter­ested in China with an un­der­stand­ing of the com­plex na­ture of Chi­nese pol­i­tics, his­tory and cul­ture af­ter their visit,’’ An said. “And we want to make sure our pro­gram ad­vances C-100’s con­tin­u­ing ef­fort to dis­pel er­ro­neous as­sump­tions and mis­per­cep­tions about China and work against nar­row­minded sim­plis­tic con­clu­sions.”

Win­nie O’Kel­ley, a 2012 del­e­gate then at the New York Times, said, “I am now much more aware of the Chi­nese be­lief in gray ar­eas, in­stead of ab­so­lutes, and the em­pha­sis on prag­ma­tism. I think that I will do a much bet­ter job of edit­ing sto­ries from across Asia.” An­nual scholarships

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with leading uni­ver­si­ties in China, C-100 has been honor­ing one to two out­stand­ing grad­u­ates of each school with an­nual scholarships for their lead­er­ship and pub­lic-ser­vice achieve­ments. Each nom­i­nee writes an es­say on China-US bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and their views of pub­lic ser­vice. A panel of C-100 mem­bers re­views their ap­pli­ca­tions and se­lects the top can­di­dates.

Be­gun in 2006, some 300 re­cip­i­ents have been rec­og­nized and the C-100 lead­er­ship award has be­come one of the most sought -af­ter ac­co­lades by each grad­u­at­ing class. Some of the early re­cip­i­ents have now at­tained lead­er­ship po­si­tions at the city and county lev­els. This has be­come an in­te­gral part of build­ing C-100’s pres­ence in China.

The other pro­grams of C-100 in­clude the Sum­mer Teach­ers In­sti­tute, which sends high school teach­ers from Cal­i­for­nia to China for a four-week in­ten­sive lan­guage and cul­tural im­mer­sion pro­gram. The Wanx­i­ang Teach­ing Schol­ars pro­gram launched in the sum­mer of 2012 is a pi­lot project based on the Sum­mer Teach­ers In­sti­tute model, funded par­tially by a grant from Wanx­i­ang Amer­ica.

Pro­gram par­tic­i­pants are US sci­ence teach­ers who will travel to three cities in China on a theme-based study to ex­plore new fron­tiers in clean tech­nol­ogy and re­new­able en­ergy. Both pro­grams sup­port Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong Ini­tia­tive, whose 20-mem­ber Federal Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee in­cludes the Com­mit­tee of 100.

Do­minic Ng, chair­man and CEO of Los Angeles-based East West Bank, was chair­man of C-100 from 2011-2013. As the pre­mier fi­nan­cial bridge be­tween the US and Greater China, East West Bank has been ranked in the top 10 of “Amer­ica’s 100 Best Banks” by Forbes for the last four con­sec­u­tive years (2010-2013), and Ng was named one of “the 100 most in­flu­en­tial people in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia” by the Los Angeles Times in 2006 and “the Busi­ness Per­son of the Year” by the Los Angeles Busi­ness Jour­nal in 2012.

As an ad­vo­cate for the col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ship be­tween the US and China in terms of po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural is­sues, Ng has also been selected among the top 20 of “2013 U.S.-China Eco­nomic and Trade Lead­ers” by the Sino-US Times.

He has been a fre­quent speaker on US-China re­la­tions, eco­nom­ics, fi­nance, phi­lan­thropy and other topics and has ad­dressed au­di­ences around the world, in­clud­ing the Asia So­ci­ety, the Boao Fo­rum, the Com­mit­tee of 100 and the United Way.

He also serves as an in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tor on the board of Mat­tel, Inc and has served on var­i­ous boards, in­clud­ing the Federal Re­serve Bank of San Fran­cisco and Paci­fiCare Health Sys­tems.

C-100 also con­ducts tar­geted re­search that iden­ti­fies cur­rent trends and key is­sues in USChina re­la­tions and the Chi­nese-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, the US-China Opin­ion Sur­vey — C-100’s sig­na­ture re­search prod­uct — mea­sures Amer­i­can and Chi­nese per­cep­tions from among the gen­eral pub­lic and high­rank­ing mem­bers of so­ci­ety on key is­sues af­fect­ing US-China re­la­tions.

Koo, who be­lieves in pro­mot­ing the idea that Chi­nese Amer­i­cans are en­ti­tled to en­joy all the rights and priv­i­leges of an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, is also con­cerned that when­ever the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship be­tween the US and China is un­der stress Chi­nese Amer­i­cans are re­garded as some­thing less than full and loyal cit­i­zens.

“While it’s cer­tainly true that China has changed dra­mat­i­cally since the for­ma­tion of C-100, the need for an in­flu­en­tial in­ter­me­di­ary to pro­mote mu­tual un­der­stand­ing be­tween the US and China has not changed all that much. Nor the need for an ad­vo­cate body that can ef­fec­tively pro­mote the rights of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans as cit­i­zens of the United States. Thus, the over­all mis­sion of C-100 hasn’t changed, though we are con­stantly fine­tun­ing our mes­sage and ap­proach to en­sure that we re­main rel­e­vant,” Koo said.

“Racial pro­fil­ing against Asians and in par­tic­u­lar eth­nic Chi­nese in Amer­ica continues to this day. To strive for the day when Chi­nese are no longer con­sid­ered as ‘other’ but fullfledged Amer­i­cans, C-100 is hold­ing work­shops around the coun­try where there are sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans ex­plain­ing the unique chal­lenges of eth­nic high-tech Chi­nese pro­fes­sion­als work­ing in the US,” he said. Dual vi­sion

Ta-Lin Hsu, a C-100 mem­ber since 2010, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has a dual vi­sion. First, to en­cour­age all Chi­nese Amer­i­cans to reach for their dreams and suc­cess. Sec­ond, to pro­mote con­struc­tive and co­op­er­a­tive re­la­tions be­tween the US and China.

“Be­ing US cit­i­zens, mem­bers of C-100 have unique po­si­tions and ad­van­tages. We un­der­stand the in­tri­cacy of the lan­guage, cul­ture and lo­cal net­work of both coun­tries. All C-100 mem­bers want to help and play a key role in build­ing trust, en­cour­ag­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and fos­ter­ing re­la­tion­ships — act as a chan­nel be­tween our two homes,” said Hsu.

Jay Xu, di­rec­tor of the Asian Art Mu­seum in San Fran­cisco, was in­vited to join C-100 in 2010 for be­ing the first Chi­nese-Amer­i­can di­rec­tor of a ma­jor US art mu­seum and for con­tribut­ing to the in­crease of cul­tural and artis­tic ex­change be­tween the US and the Greater China.

“The 2014 An­nual Con­fer­ence of C-100 is about to take place in San Fran­cisco, for which I serve as one of the four co-chairs. I am pleased to see a strong ros­ter of pro­grams de­vel­oped for the con­fer­ence, in­clud­ing topics fo­cus­ing on eco­nomic ties, diplo­matic re­la­tions and strate­gic trust, as well as the sta­tus of Asian Amer­i­cans in Sil­i­con Val­ley, which is unique to our re­gion,” said Xu.

Clarence Kwan, a se­nior part­ner at Si­noCen­tury China Over­seas In­vest­ment Part­ners from 1978 to 2012 who held a num­ber of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional lead­er­ship roles with Deloitte LLP, is the chair­man elect of C-100. Con­tact the writer at kel­lyzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com


C-100 mem­bers at the com­mit­tee’s 22nd an­nual con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton in 2013.

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