As my time with AmCham China comes to an end, I wanted to take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of you for supporting the Chamber while helping me and your AmCham China team to navigate some of our most challenging years since AmCham China was re-established in 1981. From rising tensions in US-China relations to COVID-19 to today’s tragic Russia-Ukraine war, we’ve worked as a community flexibly and creatively to navigate rough and unpredictable waters for US companies in China.
Volunteerism: the “Secret Sauce” of AmCham China
Much can, and has, been said on the state of US-China relations, but that’s for another day. As I reflect on my six years as President, what strikes me most is the Chamber’s spirit of generosity and volunteerism. This is without doubt the “secret sauce” that makes AmCham China so special and influential. Volunteerism is in our DNA.
Volunteers from all types of companies and all walks of life help the Chamber punch far, far above our weight, to use a boxing analogy. Our volunteer Board of Governors, Chapter Executive Committees, leaders of our 26 Forums and Committees, leaders of our four Cooperation Programs, hundreds of White Paper contributors, sponsors, business partners, and countless others, allow AmCham China to deliver exceptional value to our members and influence the US and China governments in a myriad of subtle, yet powerful, ways.
With the AmCham China Northeast Executive Committee and the Dalian Mayor Tan Chengxu in 2019.
Reflections on the ABCs
To serve you, AmCham China focuses on the ABCs: Advocacy, Business, and Community. Our ABC priorities are shaped by a long-term strategy (2020-2024) developed with, and endorsed by, the 2019 Board of Governors.
Advocacy is our focus with hundreds of you engaging in large and small ways throughout the year. Bringing 500+ government officials and business executives together each year for our annual Government Appreciation Dinner featuring senior Chinese government leaders such as Vice Premier Hu Chunhua and US Ambassadors shows the influence of the AmCham China brand.
Similarly, the provincial visits we’ve organized over the past six years to Guangdong, Hainan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Jilin, Shandong, Sichuan, and Xinjiang are examples of how the Chamber helps our members tap into new business opportunities and advocate for a more level playing field. For example, in 2017 we led a nearly 100-member delegation visit to Shandong where the provincial government rolled out the red carpet and our Chair at the time, Bill Zarit, led a great member meeting with then-Party Secretary Liu Jiayi. Last year, Chair Emeritus Greg Gilligan led several excellent visits to Guangdong that resulted in an MOU with the Guangdong Provincial Government.
And our huge win last year to delay individual income tax (IIT) changes for foreigners until the end of 2023 could not have come at a better time, when the expatriate community is already shrinking due to tight COVID-19 border controls.
Left: My first BIO trip to Xinjiang in 2016. Right: One of my last BIO trips to Hainan in 2021.
On the Business front, perhaps the best example was our response to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. We quickly rallied to the cause and donated over 700 million RMB to Hubei Province, while also helping members to restore their business operations – whether reopening factories, sorting out cross-provincial logistics, or sourcing PPE. In 2020, we also launched the Social Impact Initiative (SII) to help China’s SMEs and improve the public health system; now in its third year, the SII’s focus in 2022 will be environmental sustainability to help achieve China’s 30/60 carbon reduction goals.
In 2018, we also launched the Technology & Innovation (T&I) Initiative to help members with their digital transformation journeys and tackle key issues such as cybersecurity. The T&I Initiative was one of several “start-ups” at the Chamber (along with the US-China Travel Fast-Track Program, Policy+, and the Social Impact Initiative) that are highlights of my time here. They demonstrated to me the trust and confidence you have in the Chamber to support new, untested services (or MVPs – Minimum Viable Products – as they say in the start-up world!).
With the AmCham China team at the inaugural Social Impact Summit in 2021.
And on the Community front, whether from Super Bowl watch parties, golf tournaments and summer fun runs to the American Balls and Fourth of July celebrations, or even our staff visit to the new Universal Parks resort here in Beijing, we have helped to foster and grow communities of all shapes and sizes.
Left: At an AmCham China Fun Run in 2018. Right: With the AmCham China Team at Universal Park in 2021.
Of course, helping to steer a member-led organization such as AmCham China is not without its challenges. Each of the Chamber’s many stakeholders and members have his or her own idea what the Chamber should or could be doing – from business development, networking, information, training, access, advocacy, and more. While these are a vote of confidence in the Chamber, I can assure you incorporating these into our operations is no easy task, especially given today’s fluid environment and the Chamber’s limited staff and budget.
Most companies naturally focus on their KPIs, sales, financial targets, customers, competitors, and business operations. But at AmCham China there is also an underlying sense of being part of something larger. We rally around this sense of common purpose, creating that secret sauce that simply doesn’t exist in individual organizations. It is this sense of purpose and community – and the many friendships I’ve made – that I will miss the most.
Today, more than ever, we have so much to be thankful for. It has been my great privilege to work with five Chairs – Jim Zimmerman, Bill Zarit, Tim Stratford, Greg Gilligan, and now Colm Rafferty – as well as six Boards of Governors. I am looking forward to taking some real time off for my first time in 25 years to reconnect with family and friends in the US, though I plan to return to China later this year for new business opportunities.
You are in excellent hands with your new President Michael Hart. Michael and I have worked shoulder- to-shoulder for the past month to ensure a smooth transition and develop detailed plans for 2022. I wish him the very best and encourage you to support him in the same way you’ve helped me at my time at the Chamber.