In 2011, China surpassed Japan to become the world’s #2 economy based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), second only to the United States. That was a very significant event for America, since it means that we now need to shift the focus of our international trade to China, and significantly increase our export to this emerging and largest market in the world as well.

For Tennessee, China is currently ranked 3rd in the amount of trade it does with our state, exceeded only by Canada and Mexico. Each year, TN trades $1.3 billion worth of goods with China. However, though this number is impressive, it is in fact still quite insignificant compared to what the US imports from China annually ($250 billion).

The number one priority of businesses of yesterday was internal, i.e., how to make a product. However, the number one priority of businesses today is external, i.e., how to sell a product. A company today can not be successful if it can not sell its product. And accordingly, a country can not be successful either if it can not export its product. And, the first step in selling a product is to understand customers and that is where America is falling short. While the rest of the world is studying hard about us, we have been largely uninterested in understanding them, who they are and what they need. Understanding other cultures and people is no longer the right thing to do as a world citizen, it is an economic necessity now since the people in the rest of the world are our customers now!

This is in fact an area in which China is excelling. The people in China today are learning English (i.e., the number of Chinese who can speak a basic level of English has just surpassed the entire U.S. population), and they are also diligently studying who we are and what we want, and manufacturing products to meet those needs. For example, when I traveled in China, I often see cloth and sweaters in sizes “L, XL, XXL”, etc., and I don’t think they were made for the Chinese!

To maintain our economic strength and standard of living in the US, we must increase export of what we have to offer countries like China; and the first step in that process is to understand our customers abroad, i.e., the country’s culture, history and people.

The mission of the Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce (TCCC, www.tccc.us) is to help educating Americans about China and help America increase its export to China, as well as helping attract Chinese manufacturing firms to relocate to Tennessee here to create more jobs. TCCC holds regularly scheduled educational forums to help Tennesseans understand the culture, history and people of China. I was a member of former Governor Phil Bredesen's TN State Trade Mission Group, which visited China in October 2009. We helped identified many export opportunities for Tennessee's products, as well as potential Chinese manufacturing firms that might relocate to Tennessee. While we were in China, the private eye hospital system for which I am the medical director and co-owner, the Aier Eye Hospital Group, went public and became the first hospital in China's history to go IPO. Aier is currently the largest private eye hospital group in China, holding 10% of China's entire eye care market. As its medical director, I have made sure that all of Aier’s advanced eye technologies are imported from the U.S.

The more we export to China and other nations, the more positive foreign exchange the US will have, and the more money the U.S. has, the more we can actually do to help our economy and improve our education and healthcare.

In summary, the fact that China became the world’s #2 is a very significant event for the U.S., and particularly for Tennessee. It helps us focus our attention to trade with China. We want to see Tennessee having a "bigger piece of the pie" in the rapidly growing trade between U.S. and China. President Obama made the recently visiting Chinese leader, President Jin-tao Hu agree to increase the U.S.' annual export to China by $50 billion, an excellent start! The Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce wants to continue to help this effort so we can significantly increase the export of Tennessee's goods to the emerging world market of China, and in the process, improve our economy and quality of life here in Tennessee.

Ming Wang, MD, PhD is the founding president of Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce (www.tccc.us), international president of Shanghai Aier Eye Hospitals, and director of Wang Vision Cataract & LASIK Center, 1801 West End Ave, Ste 1150, Nashville, TN, 37203, 615-321-8881. He can be reached at drwang@wangvisioninstitute.com, www.WangCataractLASIKcom.

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