China has always been a magnet for those who want to make money. There is the (only possibly true) story of the Englishman who said, “If we could convince every man in China to add an inch to his shirt, every cotton merchant in England would be rich!”
Hawaii is no stranger to the China-can-make-us-rich dream. The latest salvo comes from Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, who has visited China officially and who was one of many who greeted a group of Chinese journalists who recently visited Hawaii in part as a lead up to the November APEC summit. In a recent e-mail message, Schatz was more than enthusiastic:
“As a result (of the visit), millions of people have seen positive stories about Hawaii in newspapers, on television and on computers throughout China,” Schatz wrote. The lieutenant governor sees opportunities in tourism, trade, energy and other areas.
He’s right, and with China still developing as a market for Hawaii, local businesses have a chance to do it right and perhaps learn from some of the small mistakes made when the Japanese boom began. Some stores began focusing on Japanese business to the point where they alienated their bedrock local clients. Efforts to make businesses and tourist areas friendly to Japanese sometimes backfired to the point where Japanese visitors complained everything was too much like home, it wasn’t exotic enough. And we quickly learned that despite our cultural heritage, we hardly had enough Japanese-speaking people who deal with our free-spending visitors.
There’s a sense everyone is determined to get it just right this time. Let’s hope so.