Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser traveled to China as part of a trade delegation pushing for increased Chinese tourism and Chinese investment in the District in early November. The trip brought together around 40 representatives from District government, businesses, healthcare organizations, real estate groups, tourism groups and economic development groups. Georgetown University was the only university asked by the mayor to accompany her delegation.
The trade mission, which lasted Nov. 7 to 14 and spanned 62 meetings, included two visits to Beijing and Shanghai. In Beijing, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augostini joined DeGioia at a luncheon with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. Special Assistant to the University President for China Affairs Fr. Dennis McNamara, S.J., joined the delegation in Shanghai.
“President DeGioia was grateful for the opportunity to join Mayor Bowser and her District Delegation for part of their time in Beijing,” Office of the President Chief of Staff Joe Ferrara wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As a university with a steadfast commitment to deepening our global engagement, we were pleased to take part in ongoing conversations about how we might support and encourage partnerships that strengthen our international economies and communities.”
According to the Executive Office of the Mayor, the trip was part of the Bowser administration’s efforts to build upon relationships of District and Chinese businesses, academic and health institutions.
“Overall, the mayor’s mission was very successful,” Interim Director of Business Development and Strategy at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Karima Woods said. “This was her inaugural trip to China and China received the District very well.”
One of the key priorities for the trip was to attract tech and innovation companies to the District, encouraging educational exchanges between universities and District K-12 institutions, increasing tourism to the District and attracting foreign direct investments, particularly in real estate projects.
The delegation inaugurated the InvestDC forum in Beijing and Shanghai, where Chinese investors were invited to hear project pitches and talk with District representatives about the need for investment in real estate and economic development.
“The mayor made it very clear that the focus of her mission was to continue to build upon the district’s relationship with China,” Woods said. “The total number of meetings we had was 62 meetings and each of those meetings focused on each of those different priority areas.”
The mayor’s office hopes to follow up on a number of key issues including education, in swhich Mayor Bowser and Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun stressed a desire to build ties between academic institutions at all levels. Over the course of the visit, Bowser visited Yu Cai Middle School, a sister school of Alice Deal Middle School in D.C.
“The mayor made it very clear that they want to do something more formal with the District, particularly around education at the middle school level, so we will be following up with them about what the partnership could look like,” Woods said.
China has also become the District’s largest overseas market for tourism and trade, with about a 103 percent increase in commerce since 2010. In the realm of tourism, Woods noted a successful negotiation with Air China last year that announced the first non-stop direct flight from Beijing to Washington Dulles Airport. The District recorded 200,000 visitors from China in 2014, up 35 percent from 2013, as a result of establishing this route.
“For the city we’ve focused on how we can increase the number of jobs and increase the number of tax revenue to the city,” Woods said.
The final part of the visit announced the amount of foreign direct investment already made in two key District projects. A ceremonial check was presented announcing $100 million for the Wharf Project and $55 million for the Skyland Project, both real estate development projects expected to create over 1,500 new jobs for the city.
“We continue to look forward to engaging our colleges and universities in the work that we’re doing,” Woods said. “We know that Georgetown was one of the initial universities that began to establish a presence in China … and we look forward to including Georgetown in our work.”
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.