Without missing a beat, Downey councilman and former mayor Mario Guerra dashed off on a whirlwind visit to China in the company of three other delegates the day after the City Council adjourned its regular meeting last Jan. 12 and was back in plenty of time for the next one on the 26th.He said what he saw was 'capitalism on steroids.' This, of course, accords with what the world has been anticipating for a while: by most estimates, China's economy is about to plow ahead of Japan, if it hasn't done so already, as the second largest economy in the world Even so, says Guerra, he was not prepared for the many notable, some spectacular, advances China has accomplished for its 1.2 billion people, which is four times the size of the U.S. population. "We took the Shanghai Maglev Train," he said, "and it took us 30 miles in less than 7 minutes, and at times it went over 325 kms. per hour. You could see it was going fast out the window but we could not feel the effect inside. Quiet and very smooth. I was wondering how it was going to stop and yet it came to a smooth and gentle stop. Awesome! This is the only place in the world basically where this is functioning." Guerra considers this display of technology one of the major highlights of the trip. Downey belongs to the group of Joint Powers Authority cities that have clamored for the Orangeline Maglev train in Southern California. Knockoffs and inversions of U.S. brands and logos are everywhere, he said. Thus, Radio Shack becomes Shack Radio, Marshall Fields would be Fields Marshall, and so on. Some companies have, however, set up legitimate franchises: the biggest fast food chain is not McDonalds, but KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken): "We had a sandwich at the train station and they must have a different type of chicken because [the taste] was not like [anything found] here." At one point, Guerra says, "Funny how our delegation laughed at me for having some chocolate candy bars in my briefcase, but after a long ride on the government official bus, they were asking me if I had any left…" In any case, it is a place where people seem to have a familiarity only with Kobe and Arnold. They were well-informed, though, about Downey and Tesla from the newspapers. "We were followed by a TV camera crew and it was fun to be in your hotel room, turn on the TV and see your entire day on the screen. I could not understand what was being said but you can hear your name and see what you were looking at all day." China is big on education. Another major highlight was the delegation's visit to New Century College, a beautiful new school of 4,000 students who are encouraged to learn the English language because they realize it will be to their (and their country's) benefit in the global society. The students were very curious about a lot of things, and asked questions about Downey's space heritage, certain jobs ("Is accounting a good and 'honorable' job?"), etc. "They gasped when I told them I had five kids." Guerra says. China of course is run by the 70 million-member CPC (Communist Party of China) that has a one child per family policy and other restrictive rules, making the country modern and forward-looking in some aspects, but backward and primitive in others. Not a few prognosticators are hoping some balance can be established, but nobody really knows which political path China will choose to take in the coming decades ahead-clearly a big foreign policy challenge. The head of the college was chairman David Chin, "a good friend and businessman thought very highly in the country who acted as our official interpreter," Guerra says. Apparently no objection was raised when, in speaking to the students, Guerra introduced to them the concept of Character Counts, and even put the pillars up on a big board in front. Character Counts will now be part of the teaching at this school…In China! How cool is that?" The trip was underwritten by the Latin Business Association (LBA), which counts 200,000 company members, making it the country's largest Latino business group with an outreach program to Latino business owners. LBA chairman Ruben Guerra (no relation) headed the delegation which included, besides Mario Guerra, mayor of Huntington Park Mario Gomez, and Councilman and former Bell Gardens mayor Pedro Acutencia. The group obtained 'letters of intent for friendly cooperation' from the two places they visited: Xuyi County, called the crayfish capital of the world, and Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, where 100 American companies reportedly generate $800 million locally. "Taxpayers' money was never involved here," Guerra said, "and I made sure everything was sanctioned by our city attorney. The trip was about opening doors. It's laying the foundation."
********** Published: February 5, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 42