- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

BEIJING Pro wrestler turned Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is busy wooing Chinese officials this week, calling China "the number one marketing opportunity in the 21st century."

The governor, also known as "the Body," sat down for an interview shortly after meeting Vice Minister Li Lanqing at the Great Hall of the People to talk about trade.

"I was impressed with the depth of Li's knowledge about China's relationship with Minnesota," Mr. Ventura said. "Li talked about Honeywell and Northwest Airlines, two of my state's long-standing contributors to China's development at a level where even I learned new things."

The gravel-voiced governor heads a 105-strong delegation of Minnesota business leaders hoping to open "the number one marketing opportunity in the 21st century" to local offerings that range from medical instruments and information technology to agricultural and food processing products, he said.

Mr. Ventura said he is thinking of establishing a permanent Minnesota State Trade Representative Office based in China.

"It depends on how this trip goes," he said. "There are 1.3 billion customers here, with China representing 20 percent of the world's population. This country plays a part in my state's economic future."

This is the governor's maiden trip to China. What did he think?

"All the people I've met are quite friendly," he said, and as for his impressions of the Chinese capital, Beijing, "I'm impressed. This place looks like a modern city you'd find anywhere. I had a preconceived notion of Chinese wearing Mao suits."

He blamed a big part of his misconception "on the media portrayal of China," stating "half of what you hear about this place from reporters is wrong."

Mr. Ventura went on to say he "was stunned to see freeway signs in English" on his way to the Great Wall. "Maybe they're just in Chinese another 20 miles away, but it's a start."

Concerning the future state of Sino-U.S. relations, Mr. Ventura felt "there will be bumps, but overall we'll have more cooperation than confrontation between our countries."

He mentioned China's ongoing participation in the war on terrorism and its signing of the World Trade Organization accord last year as positive steps.

The Minnesota governor bristled in response to claims his China trip was concerned more with personal end-of-term tourism rather than promoting the state's economy.

"Look at me I'm a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy," he said. "Aside from one quick trip to the Great Wall I've been wearing a suit and tie in meetings from dawn until dusk since I got here; that's not being a tourist."

Mr. Ventura said that while China's economy and society are embracing capitalism, it remains a communist government. "The two mix like oil and water."

Asked his opinion of Chinese beer, he said:

"They gave me one at the banquet held at the Great Hall of the People last night. Their beer isn't bad, but our award-winning Grain Belt Premium is better."

Mr. Ventura said that at the banquet he'd spoken with a Chinese minister who claimed to drink beer every day. "I'm going to bring a six-pack for him next time I come, and you know what? I bet he asks me for more."

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