Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Growing Partnership

After a fast 3 days in Shanghai, our delegation has made its way into friendly and familiar territory in the Zhejiang Province. Our sister-state of 23 years, Zhejiang was a gracious host to the agricultural delegation led by Lt. Governor Skillman earlier this year. On that trip our tea glasses were never empty and we were greeted by a bevy of smiling faces at every meeting, a testament to the importance of history and relationships in Chinese culture. When Governor Orr signed our sister-state agreement in 1987, he created the framework for decades of successful trade and cooperation between our two states. Especially now that the Zhejiang Province has become a center for both economic and political power in China, Indiana is indebted to Governor Orr for his foresight.

And the perks of sisterhood continue to pile up. Upon arriving at the hotel we were greeted by more smiling faces than we could count, each welcoming us to Hangzhou, the capitol of Zhejiang. We’re staying right across from the West Lake, a gorgeous body of water that draws large numbers of tourists from Shanghai every year. Surrounded by pagodas and traditional Chinese watercraft of all shapes and sizes, it’s an authentic taste of Chinese culture and history.

In the evening we were treated to a lavish banquet hosted by the Party Secretary of Zhejiang. We consumed a meal of 15 courses seated around expansive round tables at which each person was strategically placed according to his or her status. Toasts were shared as some would walk all the way around the 20-person head table, acknowledging each diner with the traditional Chinese cheer, gan bei, or bottoms up. Thankfully, even with these many friendly greetings, moderation was practiced by all and a sip of wine or a drink of water fully conveyed both appreciation and friendship. 

After gifts and business cards were exchanged we all retreated to our hotel. Our diplomatic duties finished, tomorrow begins yet another day of seeking out investors, buyers and partners for Indiana agriculture. Among the friends we have here, I don’t think the task will be too difficult.

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