Portland Mayor-elect Sam Adams has committed to developing an "export trade strategy" when he takes office in January. So it makes sense he's visiting China, Oregon's fourth-biggest export market, from Sept. 5-16.
"Supporting China in its efforts to become sustainable is not only a moral imperative; it is also an economic opportunity," Adams wrote in an email blast announcing his trip.
But for a tour built around "sustainable development," a surprising number of Adams' hosts have connections to the fossil fuels industries. And though Adams' winning mayoral campaign last spring boasted that he tightened lobbying rules in City Hall, he will be spending much of his time with people who are, essentially, lobbyists.
Adams is blogging the trip, which will be paid for largely by the National League of Cities, on commissionersam.com. Here is a sample from his itinerary, with our added context in italics.
2:25 pm: Arrive in Beijing; head to Jianguo Hotel.
6 pm: Dinner with Northwest Airlines reps. Adams' office says the trip will cost taxpayers no more than $500.
9:15 am: Tour 798 Arts District.
—Old factories turned into bars, lofts and galleries. Just like home!
6:30 pm: Drinks with Chris Murck, top Asia exec for APCO Worldwide. Dinner at Ding Tai Fung, famous for its soupy dumplings.
—Harper's nailed APCO last year for its willingness to work in Washington, D.C., on behalf of foreign dictatorships. Last year, APCO's clients included the state nuclear company of Kazakhstan and the Houston-based Parker Drilling Company. Murck once headed the American Chamber of Commerce in China, which pushed for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. A July report by the D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute found that China's WTO membership led to the loss of 37,000 jobs in Oregon between 2001 and 2007—making this state one of the trade agreement's biggest losers.
Adams joins with seven other mayors in a Delegation on Urban Sustainability and Green Cities, sponsored in part by the National Committee on United States-China Relations. The committee tries to help policymakers find "the balance between economic expansion and sustainable development."
—Directors of the $9 million-a-year nonprofit committee include Nixon administration veteran Henry Kissinger, whose consulting firm has profited from Chinese connections since he helped open China to the U.S. in the 1970s.
6:30 pm: Dinner at Xihe Jiaju Restaurant in Ritan Park with George Gilboy, and discussion of "energy challenges and sustainable development."
—Gilboy, a former Shell exec, is China manager for Australian oil and gas company Woodside Energy, a top producer of liquefied natural gas. In a 2004 article, Gilboy wrote that U.S. policymakers "need not worry about China's economic boom, much less respond with protectionism."
8:30-9:45 am: Sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven.
10:30-11:30 am: Meet Vice Minister Pan Yue of the China Environmental Protection Agency.
—Yue, a former journalist and member of the Communist Youth League, said in a 2007 interview that "China's environmental crisis has arisen, basically, because our mode of economic modernization has been copied from Western, developed nations."
10:30-11:30 am: Meet with Beijing Vice Mayor Chen Gang and officials from the Beijing Development and Reform Commission.
—Need some context for the BDRC? Imagine the Portland Planning Bureau with absolute power. As for Chen Gang, he oversaw Olympics-related construction.
6:30-8:30 p.m.: Dinner with Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
—Ma Jun is one of China's top environmentalists.
Evening: Banquet with city officials.
—They'll probably drink enough baijiu to fuel a bus.
Afternoon: "Site visits to sustainable development projects."
7:10 pm: Fly to Shanghai.
—That's on a fossil fuel-burning plane. SEPT. 12
Morning: Shanghai Sustainable Transport Partnership, a group that promotes rapid bus transit, whose founders include the Shell Foundation. Meet with officials working on the Dongtan Project, a planned $1.3 billion "carbon-neutral," solar- and wind-powered "eco-city."
—China gets two-thirds of its energy from coal.
Morning: Meet with Sun Chao, Communist Party secretary, Minhang District, to "discuss incentives for citizens to live in a more environmentally sustainable style."
Noon: Lunch and walk with developer Vincent Lo, chairman of Shui On, about Xintiandi, a historic residential area torn down to be turned into an upscale entertainment district.
—Last year, Forbes said Lo was worth $2 billion. In 2006, the mag said Shui On was "one of the first investment casualties of the anti-corruption campaign now sweeping through Shanghai," and was forced to quickly repay a $108 million loan from Shanghai's "scandal-tainted city pension fund."
Afternoon: Shanghai City Planning Museum, plus "sightseeing and shopping."
Adams ditches the mayoral delegation.
3 pm: Meet Kel Hook, director of Wieden & Kennedy Shanghai.
—In July, Hook joined a marketing panel on "crisis management for brands in China." In August during the Olympics, W&K client Nike faced charges that, by asking Chinese authorities to investigate a "malicious rumour" online, it was "enlisting the services of a repressive regime to crush its enemies" (per the U.K. Guardian).
6 pm: "Possible dinner with numerous Oregon companies with Shanghai operations."
—According to Adams' office, attendees may include Nike, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Tektronix, NACCO, Lattice Semiconductor, Adidas and (maybe) Portland State University.
4 pm: Tour BYD facility in Shenzhen, test drive vehicles.
—BYD, a top manufacturer of cell-phone batteries, is branching out with a line of rechargeable electric cars.
7 pm: Dinner with BYD reps; celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival.
—Adams will have to choke down some traditional mooncakes. Gross.
Proceed to InterContinental Shenzhen Hotel.
8:05 am: Depart Shenzhen airport for Shanghai.
12:30 pm: Depart Shanghai for Portland.
—Adams' flights on the trip total 7,700 miles and will add 3,044 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, according to a calculator at terrapass.com. That's nearly double what the average Portlander emits in a year from driving.