updated 6:34 PM CEST, May 26, 2019

AmCham China to add chapter in Shandong province

The American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China has announced that it’s to establish a fifth chapter in the country, in Shandong province, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the region's Commerce Department.

The signing of the memorandum followed two years of talks between the two organizations which included a “Shandong-US Business Partnership Week” in 2017 and a “Conference of Greater Business Partners” this year, among other meetings and exchanges, AmCham China said.

It also comes at a time when relations between China and the United States have become increasingly strained, with talk of a trade war following statements by U.S. President Donald Trump evolving into what is now being widely described as a period of negotiation amid heightened tensions. The most recent developments have included the detention of a Canadian former diplomat in China, which followed the arrest in Canada of a senior executive of the Chinese telecoms group Huawei.

In a statement on its website, AmCham China said the intention of the MoU, and the planned AmCham China chapter, was to help make the Shandong market “into a strategic growth pillar for American business in China.”

The agreement was signed on Nov.29 by AmCham China president Alan Beebe and deputy director-general of the Department of Commerce of Shandong Province, Zhang Weike (pictured above).

Shandong, formerly known to foreigners as Shantung, is located along China's eastern coast overlooking the Yellow Sea, north of Shanghai and south of Beijing. It's largest city is Linyi, in the Qingdao district.

In its statement, AmCham China said that the Shandong Commerce Department had "acknowledged that AmCham China, as the largest foreign chamber of commerce in China, has made tremendous, long-term efforts to advance US-China bilateral trade relations, and expressed hopes that AmCham China will continue its support for Shandong Province’s development" for 10 industries that the province's leadership had previously set out as its priorities. 

Noting that more than 1,100 American companies are currently operating in Shandong province, which is said to rank third of all of China's provinces in terms of its GDP, AmCham China chairman William Zarit said now was "the perfect time to look at establishing our newest chapter there."

"It’s an incredibly important part of China for us, and I am looking forward to remaining personally involved in the process as we explore our next steps,” he added. 

According to its website, AmCham China currently has more than 3,300 individual members who work for some 900 companies located across China. With offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Shenyang and Wuhan, it says it has more than 50 working groups, and holds more than 250 events each year. In addition to a head office in Beijing, the organisation has chapters in Tianjin, Central China (Wuhan) and Northeast China (Dalian). 

AmCham China traces its history in China back to 1919, when, it notes, "The New York Times announced  that an American Chamber of Commerce had been set up in what was then called Peking."  The chamber "re-formed at a Nov. 10 meeting at the Peking Hotel (now the Beijing Hotel)" in 1981, with Richard E. Kask of General Electric elected the chamber’s first president, and official recognition by the Chinese government followed in April 1991.

In a New York Times article in 1981, headlined "Jolt for Peking: A U.S. Chamber opens", the new AmCham China chapter was described as the first American Chamber of Commerce outpost at that time to set up in a Communist country.

The meeting had taken place at the Peking Hotel, the article noted, because it was where "some of the American companies have their offices."