On the first day of his unprecedented trade mission to China, Gov. Tim Pawlenty today climbed the Great Wall, sampled ice cream at a Dairy Queen, pressed the flesh, and made a few speeches, squeezing in a joke here and there. All in a day's work for a trade mission.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Mary Pawlenty on the Great Wall during the first day of his trade mission to China. Glen Stubbe Star Tribune
Janet Moore, Star Tribune
BEIJING -- Let the receptions begin.
On the first day of his unprecedented trade mission to China, Gov. Tim Pawlenty today climbed the Great Wall, sampled ice cream at a Dairy Queen, pressed the flesh, and made a few speeches, squeezing in a joke here and there.
All in a day's work for a trade mission.
This particular mission is the largest in U.S. history and includes trips to Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well.
Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, arrived with the bulk of the 218-member delegation late Saturday evening.
As China develops from a rural to consumer-oriented economy, enormous opportunities for the state will likely surface, he said in a interview. Minnesota is poised to capitalize on that trend, he added, pointing to an investment China-based Laiwu Steel made in United Taconite's operation on the state's Iron Range as an example.
"It's increasingly easier to do business in China," he said. "It's not as mysterious as it was 20 years ago."
The first order of business for the governor and the delegates was a climb up the Great Wall along Juyong Pass, less than an hour outside Beijing. There, they scaled hundreds of steep stone stairs to a series of sentry points.
A trim Pawlenty, who recently finished the Twin Cities Marathon in about four hours, seemed to negotiate the steps easily. Other members of the delegation huffed and puffed -- and then quit their ascent.
"We got pretty far up there," Pawlenty said.
Construction of the original Wall was begun more than 2,000 years ago during the Qin dynasty. Only sections of it remain today, mostly as a tourist attraction.
"There were quite a few people up there,” said John Bowlsby, president of Hemotech LLC, and a member of the Food, Agriculture and Energy delegation.
The delegates were greeted by a beautiful crisp day, complete with blue sky -- an unusual sight in Beijing these days. Excessive development has caused a decline in the city's air quality.
After lunch, the governor toured the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square before stopping by the Dairy Queen in the Oriental Plaza, a glitzy shopping mall attached to the Grand Hyatt, where the delegation is staying. There he sliced a ceremonial ice-cream cake and worked behind the counter for a few minutes, causing a stir as passersby squeezed in to see what all the commotion was about.
Edina-based Dairy Queen currently has 42 outlets in China, recently signing a multi-unit development deal with RCS Group Co. Ltd and Guangdong Foison to open 14 locations. Three of 10 locations in Shanghai are open and the first of four locations in Guangzhou opened in August.
Pawlenty stopped by a reception hosted by Minneapolis biotech firm Excorp Medical, before heading into a welcome dinner.
On Monday, he's expected to meet with senior representatives from the U.S. Embassy, plus U.S. Ambassador to China Sandy Randt, address the World Biofuels Symposium and attend a formal banquet at the Great Hall of the People.