The U.S.-China Cultural and Educational Foundation and the World Trade Center Atlanta are to host a festival Sept. 6-9 that will strengthen business and cultural ties between Atlanta and Chengdu, China, two cities already linked by a 10-year loan of giant pandas.

The Chengdu-Atlanta/Fulton/Georgia Giant Panda Arts Festival and Business Forum 2007 is to celebrate the first birthday of Mei Lan, the panda born at Zoo Atlanta last September. The U.S. China foundation will partner with Chinese and American companies and organizations in using the occasion to further connect the capital of Sichuan province with Georgia’s capital.

Song Yang, vice-chairman of the foundation, is not a businessman, but he said that connecting the two cities culturally is important in building the healthy relationships necessary for business to flourish.

“The globe is a village now. We need to bridge cultures,” he told GlobalAtlanta. “The arts and music can bring people together first, building trust, and then people can do business.”

A native of Chengdu, the aptly named Mr. Song specializes in music and the arts. He came to the Atlanta area more than 15 years ago after serving as the dean of a music conservatory in Yunnan, China’s southernmost province.

“Chengdu is my hometown. But now I have two hometowns–Chengdu and Atlanta,” he said.

Mr. Song said that although Chengdu has an official sister city relationship with Phoenix, the city has numerous similarities with Atlanta that should be tapped for the benefit of both locales.

Having hosted the vice mayor of Chengdu in Atlanta last year, Mr. Song said that Atlanta and Chengdu have a good relationship at high government levels and that Chengdu officials promote Georgia extensively.

“Now they understand that Atlanta has a big influence,” he said. “It is like Chengdu in that it is the business center of the Southeast and the weather is so similar.”

Chengdu, with a population of about 12 million people, provides a substantial market for U.S. companies, and the festival will provide those in Atlanta an opportunity to market their goods and services to Chinese suppliers.

Mr. Song said that an investment commission is coming from Chengdu to attend the event, and the city is looking for partnerships in manufacturing, computer, tourism and high-tech industries.

He mentioned that such companies as Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Motorola Inc. have all located manufacturing facilities there, and the city and business leaders are actively seeking more partnerships with Georgia.

Chengdu now has 15 international consulates general and is an air hub for western China. The region is influenced heavily by Tibetan culture, and the city blends the trappings of modernity with a 3,000-year history.

Mr. Song, who works extensively to foster cultural exchange between China and Georgia universities, said that the festival’s cultural presentations will feature 30 professional artists from China who will perform traditional songs and dances from many different ethnic groups in China.

Glendon Thompson, the managing director for Atlanta-based Arcom Group Inc. who recently opened a Jamaican restaurant in China, called Mr. Song a “prominent cultural ambassador” and said the festival will strengthen ties between the cities. [Related GlobalAtlanta story: Atlantan Opens Jamaican Restaurant in China]

“The high technology in Atlanta can find markets there. The Chengdu businesses can find sophisticated markets in Atlanta,” said Mr. Thompson in an email from China.

Mr. Thompson recently started Hangzhou Arcom Investment and Consulting Co. to help American companies break into the Chinese market. As co-vice-chairman of the U.S.-China foundation, he will fly from Hangzhou to America to attend the festival.
Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Chengdu-Atlanta/Fulton/Georgia Giant Panda Arts Festival and Business Forum 2007 information

U.S. China Cultural and Educational Foundation – Dr. Song Yang (770) 985-2445