China Star won SITE Crystal Award at SITE Global Conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 2014. We would like to share this case with the industry peers especially those who work in China. We hope that there will be more Chinese MICE companies to recognize this award and will win this honor in the near future. ?
At 11:30 AM on February 21, 1972, as soon as Richard Nixon, the first U.S. president to visit China, stepped off the Air Force One, he shook hands with Zhou Enlai, the premier of People’s Republic of China. The handshake which crossed the largest ocean shook the world and marked the beginning of a new era. Nixon called the visit “the week that changed the world”. It did not come easily that the two big countries made a turn of 180 degrees in the ocean of the international situation. Since then, the two countries broke the ice and established relationship of mutual trust, which inspired update of ideological system in international politics and promoted world peace and economic development. It was a milestone in the history of politics in the 20th century. The improvement of China‐US relations meant a lot to China. China was more closely tied to the western developed countries, which created a favorable environment for carrying out its reform and opening up later.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of President Nixon’s birth and 40th anniversary of his first visit to China, at the invitation of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), the Nixon Foundation delegation led by Christopher Nixon Cox, grandson of Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing on May 2, 2013 to start a 8‐day journey of “Retracing Richard Nixon’s steps in China, strengthening 40 years of friendship”. The delegation visited the same hotels, sites and venues in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai that Nixon and his entourage stayed and used.
The delegation attended a welcome banquet hosted by CPAFFC in the Great Hall of the People, where then‐president Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon were the guests at a state dinner in 1972. A seminar at the theme of “Retracing Richard Nixon’s steps in China, strengthening 40 years of friendship” was held, during which Christopher Nixon Cox, Sandy Quinn, President of the Richard Nixon Foundation and Jack Brennan, Marine Corps Aide to Nixon were interviewed by CCTV. Other notable figures in the group included KT McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former aide to Henry Kissinger and Marjorie Acker, who worked as a secretary for Nixon. From Chinese side, those who attended the reception were Yang Jiechi, China State Councilor, Tang Wensheng, Chairman Mao’s primary interpreter, Zhou Wenzhong, the former Chinese Ambassador to USA and CPAFFC’ president Li Xiaolin, the daughter of Li Xiannian who, before serving as China's president during the 1980s, was among the high‐level officials who greeted Nixon in 1972, and many other governmental officials or diplomats who met Nixon and worked for Nixon’s visit to China.
In Hangzhou, Vice Governor Liang Liming hosted a banquet for the delegation at the Hangzhou Xihu State Guesthouse where the first draft of what would become the famous Shanghai Communiqué was born. Lu Hesen, the former local government official who was in charge of Nixon’s visit recalled the situation and 40 years’ development of friendship between the two countries.
On the morning of May 7, the delegation visited the Hangzhou botanical park where the redwood trees Nixon brought with him in 1972 were planted. The Cox couple and the delegates planted two Chinese redwood trees there as a symbol of the everlasting friendship between the United States and China.
The delegation arrived in Shanghai on May 8. The next day a welcome reception “Retracing Nixon’s 1972 Visit to China” was held in the Grand Hall of Jin Jiang Hotel by Shanghai Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. It was in this hotel President Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai signed the world famous Shanghai Communiqué on February 27. It was the first joint announcement signed between the two governments and its full name was the Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People's Republic of China. It was issued on February 28, 1972, which meant the two countries after two decades of conflict, started the process of normalizing diplomatic relations.
Retracing his grandfather’s footsteps of visit over 40 years ago, its meaning was great, as Christopher Nixon Cox said at CCTV’s program to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of CPAFFC: When I was a boy, I remember that my grandfather would always tell me the strong and prosperous China was a critical importance to peace and stability in the world. The American people and Chinese people share a love of peace and hope the world can become a better place. When my grandfather visited Hangzhou in 1972, he planted a small redwood tree from his home state of California. It was nearly seedling at the time. Today it’s growing tall and robust. In the future, it will become a towering giant of the forest. The story and process of the growth that redwood tree is very similar to the relationship between China and United States. At times we may suffer through storms, but with meticulous and consisting cares, it will continue to prosper and grow long into the future.
It was a move of strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two countries for the Richard Nixon Foundation delegation to visit China on Nixon’s 100th birthday. The visit was publicized by popular media such as CCTV and China Daily and hundreds of millions of Chinese especially the young generation had the opportunity to recall and review the history, to see there were successors to carry on the legacy and more firmly believed the tree of Sino‐US friendship will be ever green only in world peace.
The creativity of the event depends on how to revive the history of Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, how to help the delegation feel the big changes of China over the last 40 years and understand China better and how to make this visit a once‐in‐a‐life‐time unforgettable experience.
There are different versions of the story of Nixon’s 1972 visit in the two countries. In order that the delegation would have a more real understanding of the situation of China and the changes that happened over 40 years, Our Company arranged its CEO, a witness of this period of history to accompany the delegation from beginning to end. She and Jack Brennan, Marine Corps Aide to Nixon also shared memories of Nixon’s visit from different perspectives of two countries. Brennan, Marine Corps Aide to Nixon (first from the right) accompanied Nixon couple to visit China in 1976 and was met by Mao Zedong.
We tried to revive history and had our events in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, in the Great Hall of the People, Hangzhou Xihu State Guesthouse and Shanghai Jin Jiang Grand Hall, which are not really used without special permit. These places have become historic venues because of Nixon’s 1972 visit and are not open to the public. The delegation visited the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse that President Nixon stayed during his visit to Beijing in 1972 and took pictures in front of the apartment Nixon couple lived.
At the same time, through our extraordinary arrangement, the delegation had the opportunity to contact with common Chinese, realized how their happy life is different from 40 years ago and how important it is to keep friendly relations with the rising China and hardworking Chinese people.
We integrated high‐level meeting with people‐to‐people communication, serious session with cultural exposure in planning of the event.
The panel discussion held in the Great Hall of the People and the following gala dinner were definitely the highest level diplomatic exchange between the delegation and the Chinese government. The delegation’s visit to Shanghai Institutes for International Studies was people‐to‐people communication. No matter in which way, the objective of strengthening understanding and friendship between the two countries was achieved. What impressed the delegation most was their understanding of diversity of the world and consensus on the principle of “seeking common ground while putting aside differences and win‐win cooperation”.
We provided a variety of cultural activities and traffic experience so that the delegation could have a comprehensive understanding of China in the short stay of 8 days.
The delegation had extensive contact with ordinary Chinese in the Forbidden City, on the Great Wall, in the houses of local people and in the field of the famers in Beijing suburb. In Hangzhou, they learned the planting and producing of Longjing tea and saw how tea farmers became better off through hard work.
A rickshaw ride in the Hutong area, high‐speed train from Hangzhou to Shanghai, a double‐decker bus ride in the city of Shanghai, and a cruise on the Huangpu River, the different ways of travel gave the delegation the experience of a lifetime.
There have been many challenges in planning, coordination and implementation of the event because of the involvement of different levels of the government authority. Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, the Great Hall of the People, Hangzhou State Guesthouse and Shanghai Jin Jiang Grand Hall are venues under jurisdiction of the government. The government couldn’t keep pace with enterprises, so we had to do a lot of coordination and liaison. The content of government activities and list of guests were not confirmed until the last moment. There were lots of changes in the name lists, the procedures, security requirements, etc. We had to adjust the program all the time and send the updated information to the delegation in the shortest time and deal with all the details according to the requirement of the government. All the activities concluded successfully thanks to our experiences working with the government, precise work and professional attitude of paying attention to details.
The delegation members were from all walks of life with an age difference from 19 to 85. In order that everyone had a satisfactory experience, we had to care about their background and age difference, and made them feel they were treated equally and warmly. The two travel managers tried their best to have a talk with every delegate after the delegation’s arrival and got to know everyone’s need at the earliest time.
Ability to Overcome Challenges in Implementation
A DMC in China has to be flexible with strain capacity and determinative attitude when something negative happens. Working with Chinese government is a challenge that not every DMC could handle properly and efficiently.
There were many government involved activities that needed coordination during the delegation’s8‐day visit. When the Nixon Foundation was worried about the uncertainty of information on the government’s side, we coordinated with the government relying on its understanding of China’s conditions and work procedures of the government and helped relieve the American partner’s concern.
Diaoyutai State Guesthouse where President Nixon stayed during his 1972 visit was a must in the delegation’s wish list. The relevant government department promised they would help us arrange it and confirmed it. However, when we double checked with them one day before the visit, they said they didn’t know about such arrangement. But the visit to Diaoyutai State Guesthouse was included in our itinerary sent to the delegation and more importantly, it meant a lot to the delegation. We decided to report directly to the higher authority and communicated with the government officials who accompanied the delegation to gain their support. We had to make efforts to realize the delegation’s dream and to fulfill our promise. Thanks to the team work of the government and our company, the delegation visited Diaoyutai State Guesthouse the next day.
When President Nixon climbed the Badaling Great Wall on February 24, 1972, he said, “Chairman Mao said one is not a hero if he has not been on the Great Wall. Today we are on the Great Wall and we are all heroes.”
It was a long‐cherished dream of the delegation to climb the Badaling section of the Great Wall.
The group met with unusual traffic congestion on their way to the Great Wall. The bus couldn’t move when reaching the intersection of the Great Wall and the Sacred Way. The traffic police were busy directing the traffic but there was still great chaos. The road on the right hand side to the Great Wall was jammed to the far end, but the road condition on the left side to the Sacred Way was much better. At this critical moment, the travel manager decided to change the schedule, to visit the Sacred Way first and then the Great Wall. He immediately informed the journalists of the change and jumped off the bus to help the police ease the traffic. Soon the bus was driving on the high way to the Sacred Way. The congestion lasted four hours that day. When the group finished their visit to the Sacred Way and drove to the Great Wall, the road was clear all the way. The day would have been a disaster if our travel managers had not been experienced enough to make the right decision and deal with the situation flexibly.
There was another challenge in Shanghai. The double‐decker bus we rent broke down at the front gate of the hotel. It was raining and the delegates were sitting on the bus. Our colleagues and the hotel staff acted decisively and stopped a double‐decker bus with only one passenger. We explained the situation to the driver and persuaded him to drive the delegation to Huangpu River wharf. We also got the understanding of the Russian passenger. To express our thanks, we invited her to join in the river cruise and have dinner together with the delegation. We easily solved the problem and the delegates praised us for being very professional.
We brought into full play our teamwork spirit when organizing the cocktail party on the Huangpu River cruise. Outside catering is not allowed on the cruise, but the catering service of the excursion boat couldn’t meet our requirements. So we negotiated with the boat, provided free training to help them improve the quality of catering service to international standards for the future cooperation, and finally got their understanding and permission to use an outside caterer. The cocktail party was a great success with our hard work and their cooperation.
Sustainability Practices For our later generation
There are two important meanings of the tree planting in the Hangzhou botanical garden we planned for President Nixon’s grandson, his wife and the whole delegation. First, inherit President Nixon’s legacy and demonstrate the delegation’s determination to make contributions to strengthening the friendship between the two countries; second, beautify the environment, encourage people to protect the environment and establish the value of sustainable development with Nixon’s influence in China. The Hangzhou botanical garden is a scientific research and education base and open to the public. Every year it receives 1.2 to 1.5 million visits from international tourists, college and university students studying agriculture, forestry and medicine. Planting trees here by the delegation will have far‐reaching influence.