- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2015


This weekend, while many of us will be glued to a TV or mobile device for college football or tending to a “honey-do” list as fall settles in, 40 inside-the-Beltway leaders are heading to China.

The premise is trade and tourism, as well as sister-city ties to Beijing.

The question is: Is D.C. for sale to China?

Seriously. What does the nation’s capital have that Beijing wants?

As one of the black-market capitals of the world, China has made Disney its trademark ripoff du jour. Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder could probably teach Disney a thing or two about defending against trademark infringement.

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Recent Chinese hacking attempts on U.S. governments and corporations mean that Beijing already violates our cyber agreements.

When then-Mayor Vincent Gray visited China a couple years ago, the Chinese agreed to aid Howard University, one of America’s formerly prestigious black institutions. But now, the school can’t even deliver scholarships promised to its own marching band.

The District operates two D.C. Center China offices, one in Beijing that opened in 2014 and one in Shanghai that opened in 2012. What’s the return on investment (ROI) for residents, taxpayers and other stakeholders?

Can Mayor Muriel Bowser tell the difference between Jimmy Choo and Jimmy Chow?

Well, fortunately, our rookie mayor will be in the company of two of the city’s wiz kids, D.C. Council member Jack Evans, veteran chairman of the fiscal affairs committee; and former Mayor Tony Williams, our ex-chief financial officer, by the way. It was Mr. Williams who had the balls in the air and the plans on the drawing board to bring the city back from the brink (and Mr. Evans was with him much of the way).

The president/CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, Jim Dinegar, and Harry Wingo, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, also are making the D.C.-to-China jaunt, which should aid Miss Bowser. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan already have been to China; that neither governor sent a representative on this trip, however, speaks volumes.

It’s just that the last time Beijing made a noticeable splash in the city was from 2006 to 2008, and the purpose was to accommodate hundreds of Chinese laborers at the Days Inn on New York Avenue NE to build a new Chinese Embassy off Connecticut Avenue NW. The laborers were fed and housed at the Days Inn, and presumably, D.C. stakeholders still await ROI dollar signs while the Days Inn now houses homeless families.

Culturally speaking, tourism remains a huge draw. In fact, more than 195,000 Chinese tourists visited our region in 2013, and those in-the-know say the Chinese are the area’s second-largest overseas market.

And come springtime, when yet another honey-do list is ready, the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin and the giant pandas at the National Zoo will again be must-see attractions for Chinese travelers.

But why China?

Why aren’t we investing as much time, energy and money in developing ties in Paris or Rome? West Africa, Tel Aviv, the Caribbean or Seoul? The cultural connections are given.

Unless — unless — China wants a-c-c-e-s-s.

Made-in-America Wal-Mart sought access, and the District rolled out the red carpet only after seeking “community” benefits.

Made-in-American Pepco-Exelon sought access, and the city blessed the merger only after the proposal included a bag of goodies for D.C. residents, including a one-time credit of $50 (which means my Jimmy Choo boots are still out of reach).

Remember the contaminated toys and children’s products that were made in China but sold in America?

Did you know that the Animal Equality organization said in a Thursday press release that manufacturers in China are making children’s clothing and carpeting with cat and dog fur after slaughtering the animals?

Look, considering how China has been treating America, we shouldn’t label the Chinese our besties, even though as tourists they are our BFFs.

It’s American political naivete and serious issues in foreign affairs and trade that are troubling. After all, D.C. is a city and it’s leaders pretend to think globally, while China has been a global wheeler-and-dealer for decades. That China is a big dog with electronics and cyber chicanery is by design, not happenstance.

The D.C. mayors always say they want China to grow its foreign investment here, which means the “For Sale” sign was staked a long while ago.

Today the question is: “What’s our ROI?”

Good thing Miss Bowser and the others in the D.C.-to-China entourage have plenty of time to purchase not-made-in-China disposal cellphones.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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