Supporters of Georgia‘s relationship with China were frustrated in 2009 when Delta Air Lines Inc. suspended its long-awaited and hard-won nonstop flight from Atlanta to Shanghai.

Many who had lobbied for the flight, an elite group including 12 state governors and a slew of business leaders from the South’s largest companies, wondered why Delta would cut ties with Georgia’s second largest export destination.

But even as disparate business delegations traveled to China, Delta’s move seemed to reflect the tenor of the times. Exports to China were down as the global economy faltered. Chinese investments in Georgia continued to sputter. There was no movement on the prospect of a Chinese consulate general in Atlanta, which had been discussed often in 2008. Georgia’s office in Beijing lost its managing director when the state decided not to renew her contract.

In short, the relationship’s forward trajectory stalled during 2009.

Though 2010 started in the same moribund fashion, it finished with a flurry of activity.

In August, the Southern Governors Association used a full day during its annual meeting outside Birmingham, Ala., to discuss ways to market the South to Chinese investors.

A month later, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who didn’t attend the meeting with his counterparts, made his third trip to China, where he met with ports leaders in Hong Kong and Shanghai and stopped in on the state’s office in Beijing.

In Shanghai, he accompanied Coca-Cola Co. executives to the Expo 2010, the massive world’s fair that attracted more than 70 million visitors over six months. Atlanta-based Coke was a premier sponsor of the expo and one of the only companies to have its own freestanding pavilion at the expo.

In early November, the National Association of Chinese-Americans held its first-ever U.S. China Business Conference, which drew more than 100 attendees. Panel speakers included executives from major Atlanta companies including Coca-Cola, United Parcel Service Inc.,SiemensOne and GE Energy, as well as prominent Chinese firms like Mingyang Wind Power Technology Co. Ltd.

As if on cue, Delta announced two weeks after the NACA event that it would restart its Shanghai flight twice per week from Atlanta beginning June 5, 2011.

Among other China developments in 2010:

-Two Chinese companies announced expansions in Gwinnett County during a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce mission to the country this summer. The chamber opened an office in the city of Wuxi in January in partnership with the city government. Gwinnett companies can use the offices to hold meetings with potential Chinese partners. The chamber is eyeing office space in Shanghai as well. See: Gwinnett: China Ties Lead to New Investments

DeKalb County inked a sister community agreement with a well-known district in the city of Ningbo. See: DeKalb Links Up With Chinese Community

-In October, Georgia State University opened a Confucius Institute, joining a network of nearly 300 Chinese government-sponsored language and cultural centers around the world. The opening of the center, which is to be a resource for the business community, made Georgia the only U.S. state with three such institutes. One is at Kennesaw State University and another is operated at an Atlanta middle school in partnership with Emory University. See: Georgia State Chinese Institute Focuses on Business

GlobalAtlanta took a 10-day trip to four cities in China to report on the state’s business and educational ties there. The resulting special issue included on-the-ground dispatches about the Expo 2010, student exchanges, a Georgian running a Chinese factory and Duluth-based AGCO Corp.‘s new China factory, among other topics. In case you missed it: Full China Special Report

More coverage: 

Commentary: No Nonstop Flight From Atlanta to Shanghai; No Problem? 

Blog: Atlanta to Shanghai: The Detroit Transfer

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As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...