The following message from AmCham Chairman Greg Gilligan originally appeared in the AmCham China Quarterly magazine
As China moved from its front-line pandemic response to a full focus on revitalizing the economy, the US business community here pledged to show support in a multitude of ways. We’ve been here for decades – with many of us deeply invested in the country both personally and professionally – and we plan to be here improving US-China commercial relations for the next 100 years.
However, a significant portion of our wider membership remains stuck outside of China’s borders. Getting these expats back home to China has been extremely challenging and a painstaking process. Much was put on hold until the rearranged annual Two Sessions parliamentary meetings concluded at the end of May, but we have made good progress since then. In early July, we secured permission for close to 80 of our members to return to China and resume their professional lives. There are, however, many more still awaiting regulatory permission to return.
We will continue to advocate on behalf of those in need. In our most recent Flash Survey on the business impact of COVID-19, 90% of respondents cited “global travel disruption” as a key business concern. Our first informal survey on this topic received more than 500 responses, showing the enormous ongoing interest in this issue; we are currently collecting a second set of data from our members on this to fully evaluate which needs are most pressing, and how we can best help. In the meantime, we are doing everything possible – including frequent contact with relevant Chinese government departments and meetings with high-level officials from the Ministry of Finance (MOF), the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), and the ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) – in an attempt to resolve the situation.
We hosted an excellent sharing session on the topic of getting expats back into China, with speakers from Boeing, United Airlines, the U.S. Embassy, and the German Chamber. We have also distributed a member-only Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document for expats stranded abroad, a handy guide that answers many of the questions we have received and has quickly become an essential reference tool.
But this is not just about getting executives back to China. We are a community, and so with executives come spouses, children, medical professionals, educators, and other vital support staff. The start of the next school year is just around the corner, and many are hopeful that the disruptions faced so far in 2020 will soon be a thing of the past.
At its core, though, this issue is not simply a matter of convenience, but a matter of critical infrastructure for China’s investment environment. If our senior executives cannot be on-the-ground to inform their company’s China strategy or plans, it stands to reason that investment decisions will be delayed, or – worse – canceled.
I and my family have remained in Beijing since the start of the year, but those of us in China want and need the rest of you to come back. Our community has always thrived on strength in numbers and, together, we will keep working until we have secured every member’s safe return. Please know our President Al Beebe, the AmCham staff he leads, and I all remain laser-focused on doing everything we can to assist the return of you, your families, and essential support personnel.
Chairman, AmCham China