The Chicago-China Friendship Initiative is on track to raise the city’s profile as a center of international commerce, increase tourism from China and establish Chicago as the most “China-friendly” city in the United States. The initiative was launched last month during the trip to China and Hong Kong organized by World Business Chicago (WBC), and attended by Mayor Richard M. Daley and a prominent Chicago business delegation.
Following the trip, the Chicago-China Friendship committee held their first meeting to sustain the campaign, leverage international connections and extend Chicago’s global footprint. At its initial meeting, Committee Co-Chairs Bruce Rauner and Daniel Ustian discussed the purpose of the committee - to ensure that the momentum from President Hu’s visit and the delegation’s recent trip continues. The committee unites the efforts of WBC, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB), Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Global Affairs (CCGA) under one theme: “Chicago: The Heart of America.” The committee’s charge is to increase tourism, grow business connections and foster closer ties between Chicago and China.
During the first committee meeting, Jim Schmidt, Partner at Downtown Partners Chicago, provided the members with an overview of the creative work done for the “Heart of America” ad campaign and presented a TV spot to the group.
Rita Athas, President of World Business Chicago, spoke of the importance of President Hu’s trip and Chicago’s strong commitment to China.
“We had an overwhelming reception throughout all five cities we visited, thanks, in part, to Mayor Daley’s longstanding tenure and his leadership in uniting Chicago’s public and private sectors,” Athas said. “The timing of his trip couldn’t have been better, coming off of President Hu’s visit. And, many of our business leaders who participated in the delegation have gained new opportunities with Chinese counterparts as a direct result of the trip.”
The trip will serve as a template for future work that emphasizes collaboration and collapses all the resources under one brand in selling Chicago as a premier global business and tourist destination.
At the meeting, Deputy Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago Chu Maoming discussed the trip’s success. He emphasized the importance of the positive media coverage throughout China. The trip resulted in stories in 88 media outlets, reaching nearly 5 million Chinese people and equaling more than 14.5 million media impressions. Mr. Maoming also reiterated the Chinese Consulate’s strong support for Chicago’s efforts and its intention to continue to assist in facilitating trips to China and serve as an advisor.
The group discussed ideas about how Chicago can truly become the most China-friendly city in the country, both in tourism and business, and came up with solid next steps to expedite this process. The team will enlist new business partners, tap into the strong support of local educational institutions, and leverage many of the existing materials utilized for the visit in order to meet this charter in creative ways. World Business Chicago will lead the efforts of developing a preliminary strategic plan on how Chicago becomes the most “China-friendly” city.
“We are all extremely happy with the results of the trip to China,” Mayor Daley said. “Not only were we able to create a solid framework for expanding our business, educational and cultural connections with China and Hong Kong, but we were also able to execute agreements that will begin to pay benefits to Chicago immediately.”
The agreements include:
- A 3-year agreement with Wanxiang under which the company and the City will develop cooperative educational, cultural and professional partnerships that will motivate Chicago Public School students to choose Chinese as their World Language and to continue Chinese language study beyond the minimum two-year requirement of the World Language Program.
- An agreement with the City of Tianjin for continued cooperation between the two cities. Tianjin has had an economic development office in Chicago for the past 10 years and the cooperative relationship between the two cities has grown steadily over the years.
- A similar cooperation agreement with the City of Chongqing, which has been compared to Chicago because it is an industrial gateway that opens the country to its rural heartland.
- “Sister Airport” agreements for O’Hare with the airports in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
- World Business Chicago and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council have agreed to coordinate a program of joint promotion to their respective networks.
“We already have a very strong relationship with China, but the economic future of Chicago depends greatly on our success in seeking opportunities in China and around the globe,” Daley said. “It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the relationships we’re establishing there.”