Chinese ambassador visits Vt.

For the first time in Vermont history, a Chinese ambassador to the United States landed on Green Mountain soil. In a trip organized by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce (VCC) and the Vermont Council on World Affairs (VCWA), Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong toured Chittenden county in an effort to provide himself and Vermonters with further understanding of China and Vermont’s cultural and economic relationship.The visit culminated at the Ross Sports Center at Saint Michael’s College, where Zhou gave a speech entitled “Vermont and China: A Search for Collaboration,” followed by a question and answer session.Among the crowd of approximately 300 people were President Daniel Fogel, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and VCC President Duane Marsh. Marsh said that Zhou’s visit was important to both Vermont and China, in order for both sides to develop a better understanding of different cultural points of view. Also present were Tibetan Association of Vermont acting President Tenzin Mingyur Geygong, UVM Students for a Free Tibet Co-President Sam Maron and a group of Tibetan Vermont residents protesting at the entrance and present in the back of the venue – flags held high.After Zhou’s speech, protestor’s began chanting “Free Tibet!” and police dragged out one man, who would not be quiet when asked, as he screamed the words. Maron said that the ambassador’s visit was a unique opportunity that needed to be used to expose what China has done in Tibet. He said that he hoped protesting at the event would get people thinking, raise awareness and encourage people to listen with a critical ear.Zhou’s speech focused primarily on economic issues the U.S. China’s foreign trade last year amounted to $1.42 trillion, making China the third largest trading nation in the world. “China’s market is thriving and holds tremendous potential for growth,” Zhou said.The ambassador discussed future hopes to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and China.Audience members submitted questions that former Middlebury College President Olin Robison, sorted and generalized into three different categories- countries andregions, economic issues and issues distinctly concerned with China-to ask theambassador.Zhou addressed China’s relationship with Russia, North Korea, Japan and Taiwan. He supported China’s “One China Policy,” saying “Taiwan is a part of China,” and that “Taiwan independence would mean war.”Questions concerning economic issues focused on China’s growing interest in Africa, particularly Suan, Iraq and Iran.”From our point of view, any contribution to the supply of oil to the world market should be welcomed,” Zhou said of China’s interest in Sudan oil, “because any contribution to the supply would actually reduce the pressure of the upward trend of the oil price.”Zhou hinted at China’s opposition to the Iraq War, but explained measures the country would take to help resolve problems there, such as debt exemption. Globalization and Tibet were the topics of many questions. “Globalization is something you can’t resist,” Zhou said, explaining that China’s fundamental policy toward globalization is to continue to open up and import. Zhou closed the issue by saying, “what is best in China is what works in China.” The protesters, who hours earlier had been chanting, “what we want? We want justice!” and “long live Dalai Lama!” on the street corner, awaited the ambassador’s response to the Tibet issue, which was no different than that to the issue of Taiwan, saying, “Tibet is a part of China.”The protesters responded with “boos.” Zhou continued to support the “One China Policy”and said that their position on Tibet is now that of the international community, and thatChina is doing its best to help Tibet’s development.Fogel said afterward that it was wonderful to have the ambassador in Vermont and that he was very direct when speaking.”I’m not defending his position, I’m just saying he was very direct.”