For­mer Seat­tle mayor pre­pared doc­u­ments on gov­ern­ing city as gift for Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion

China Daily - - 40 YEARS ON - By LINDA DENG in Seat­tle lin­dadeng@chi­nadai­

When Deng Xiaop­ing vis­ited Seat­tle in early 1979, right af­ter China and the United States es­tab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions on Jan 1 that year, Charles Royer was begin­ning his sec­ond year as mayor of the north­west­ern US city.

“It scared me to death when I got a call from Wash­ing­ton, DC, as a brand-new mayor,” Royer said. “I got a call from the State Depart­ment. They said, ‘You can­not talk to any­body about this, but Deng Xiaop­ing from China is go­ing to visit four cities in the United States, and Seat­tle is one of them. And he will be here prob­a­bly in the early part of this year.’ They called me in Jan­uary. Deng came in Fe­bru­ary. So we had a month to get ready.

“It was kind of a night­mare, when we were just start­ing out, brand-new peo­ple in the of­fice. But peo­ple in­volved loved the idea of be­ing able to host, along with the other three big cities in the US, the new leader of China.

“The new leader of China, who had al­ready ar­tic­u­lated what he called the ‘new Long March’, which was a dra­matic ef­fort on the part of Deng, the prag­matic leader, to bring China for­ward into the 21st cen­tury, and by golly, it hap­pened.

“The ar­rival of Deng was pretty ex­cit­ing. There wasn’t a huge crowd. It was very per­sonal and im­pres­sive.”

Deng vis­ited four ma­jor US cities: At­lanta, Wash­ing­ton, Hous­ton and Seat­tle, which was the last stop. Deng’s Boe­ing 707 plane landed in Seat­tle on the evening of Feb 3, 1979.

Deng wowed the crowd at a large ho­tel lun­cheon, toured a Boe­ing 747 plant in nearby Everett and im­pressed peo­ple with his hu­mor at an in­ti­mate din­ner with busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Un­for­tu­nately, Deng caught a bad cold and had to can­cel other events planned for him dur­ing his 40-hour stay in the city.

“He was a small man but very charis­matic, very im­pos­ing,” Royer, now 79, said, com­par­ing Deng’s visit to Seat­tle to one by the United King­dom’s Queen El­iz­a­beth II in 1983.

“He was one of the best po­lit­i­cal peo­ple I have ever seen with the crowd. I don’t know how he did when he was home. Here he was a very pop­u­lar guy when he got out in the crowd, with a sense of hu­mor and very easy with peo­ple.”

Soon af­ter Deng left Seat­tle, a ship en­tered Shang­hai har­bor on March 15, 1979. It was the SS Leti­tia Lykes, the first US-flagged ship to call on China since 1949.

A month later, the MV Liu Lin Hai, docked at the Port of Seat­tle’s Pier 91 at Smith Cove. It was the first visit in 30 years by a ship from the Chi­nese main­land to the US.

“In 1971 there was al­most no trade be­tween China and the United States. In­stantly, al­most with Deng’s visit, ev­ery­thing opened,” Royer said.

He said Se­na­tor War­ren Mag­nu­son, who rep­re­sented Wash­ing­ton state, and Seat­tle lawyer Stan Barer, who had once worked on Mag­nu­son’s staff, played an im­por­tant role in sup­port­ing leg­is­la­tion that helped mar­itime com­merce be­tween the US and China re­sume, at a time when many in the US were wary.

“Those two guys were very im­por­tant in mak­ing it pos­si­ble to im­prove the re­la­tion­ship with China,” Royer said. “Then to over­come a very dif­fi­cult past, the key I think for me is Deng Xiaop­ing’s visit to the US.

“Ever since then, the trade num­bers be­tween the US and China grew ex­po­nen­tially. Sud­denly, Wash­ing­ton state was the No 3 trade part­ner of China, be­hind Cal­i­for­nia and Texas. That was a dra­matic turn­about, to the ben­e­fit of both coun­tries.”

Spe­cial gift

He said the city govern­ment got some good ad­vice from the state govern­ment and the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton that helped it pre­pare for Deng’s visit.

“We knew we needed to pre­pare a busi­ness meet­ing for the del­e­ga­tion, a din­ner, and of course, a gift for the del­e­ga­tion,” Royer said.

As for the gift, Pro­fes­sor Robert Kapp from the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton sug­gested some­thing that would be mean­ing­ful to the Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion.

“Kapp said, ‘The Chi­nese ad­mire get­ting things done and ac­com­plish­ment. They want to do things right. Why don’t we put to­gether some­thing that shows them how you make things hap­pen in Seat­tle. I can’t think of any piece of art or mem­o­ra­bilia that would be more im­por­tant than show­ing them how you make your govern­ment work. In their eyes, that would make you unique,’” Royer re­called.

So the city depart­ments started col­lect­ing doc­u­ments, ex­plain­ing how they gov­erned util­i­ties, how they reg­u­lated his­toric places, how they trained the po­lice of­fi­cers, how they cleaned the streets, and other things.

“We had a bunch of peo­ple work­ing on the huge project and ended up with four big boxes,” Royer said. “At one point we put them on a truck, took them down to the ho­tel where the del­e­ga­tion was stay­ing, un­loaded the boxes and ex­plained to the del­e­ga­tion what we had done.”

In June 1979, Royer, along with nine other may­ors from big US cities, vis­ited China. Dur­ing the del­e­ga­tion’s 14-day trip, they vis­ited 12 Chi­nese cities.

“It was a good­will tour, the first del­e­ga­tion of lo­cal of­fi­cials to go to China dur­ing the nor­mal­iza­tion (of re­la­tions),” he said. “For me, the pur­pose of the trip was to meet with the lo­cal of­fi­cials, talk to them about ba­si­cally what’s in the ‘box’.

“We did hope our boxes would help and were al­ways won­der­ing, were there some young Deng Xiaop­ings, uni­ver­si­ties or lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials, seek­ing truth through facts, be­ing in­ter­ested in the in­for­ma­tion we had col­lected and care­fully study­ing these doc­u­ments? Did these doc­u­ments give them an idea or two that helped build a great city?”

City ties

An­other way that Seat­tle has sought to bol­ster in­ter­city ties is through the sis­ter city con­cept that evolved in the US through pres­i­dent Dwight Eisen­hower’s “Peo­ple-to-Peo­ple” pro­gram, es­tab­lished in 1956 to lessen the chance of war by in­volv­ing peo­ple from all walks of life in per­sonal di­plo­macy.

Hav­ing met Deng and toured China him­self in 1979, Royer sent a del­e­ga­tion to Chongqing, in south­west­ern China, in 1982 to draft an agree­ment. On June 3, 1983, he sealed the deal in Seat­tle with then Chongqing mayor Yu Han­qing, start­ing a se­ries of ex­change pro­grams and a re­la­tion­ship now in its 35th year.

Ed­u­ca­tional ex­changes have played a key role, with the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton and Sichuan Univer­sity ini­ti­at­ing their first ex­change pro­gram in medicine in 1984. More re­cent col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween the two uni­ver­si­ties in­clude the open­ing of the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute of Wash­ing­ton State in 2010.

Royer even­tu­ally re­turned to China, spend­ing most of his time in Chongqing.

He laughed when he talked about how a baby panda started to nib­ble on his shoes when he stepped into a panda cage at the zoo dur­ing his 1989 trip to the city. He said the city is a lot like Seat­tle, with a beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ment and great food.

The largest sis­ter city project with Chongqing is the Seat­tle Chi­nese Gar­den. With an es­ti­mated cost of $40 mil­lion, the 2-hectare gar­den in West Seat­tle is a joint pub­lic/pri­vate project, with funds raised in both cities.

“We want the Chi­nese gar­den to be a con­fer­ence cen­ter more than a gar­den, hope­fully an ed­u­ca­tion place and a place for peo­ple to get to­gether and talk about im­por­tant is­sues like the re­cent tar­iff thing,” Royer said.

He (Deng Xiaop­ing) was one of the best po­lit­i­cal peo­ple I have ever seen with the crowd . ... Here he was a very pop­u­lar guy when he got out in the crowd, with a sense of hu­mor and very easy with peo­ple.” Charles Royer, for­mer Seat­tle mayor


Charles Royer dis­plays a pho­to­graph of Deng Xiaop­ing’s visit to Seat­tle in 1979 at his home.

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