By Jim E. Winburn
Major General James T. Whitehead, Jr., USAF (Retired) -Courtesy Photo
The San Gabriel Valley and the 37th President of the United States Richard Milhous Nixon may have very little in common – except for the fact that it was his visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1972 that helped bridge a formidable gap between two very different societies.
Forty years after President Nixon’s historic trip to China, the Western Region of the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association (USCPFA) is celebrating continued development of positive relationships and cultural exchange between both countries through its 2012 Western Regional Conference Oct. 26 to 28.
The conference plans to host international dignitaries at the San Gabriel Hilton, focusing on a new age of U.S.-China relations. Organizers believe that future security between the two nations is possible through the friendly prospect of reflecting on each other’s past relations while looking thoughtfully upon current outreach efforts.
“Our objective is to reflect on, enhance and to maintain the positive relationship that exists between the people of the U.S. and China,” said Jason J. Lee, president of the L.A./San Gabriel chapter of the USCPFA, noting that this is achieved by sharing in each other’s diverse culture.
Lee said that USCPFA was founded in 1974 with the understanding that participants in the organization recognize friendship between members and good relations between their two governments as playing a crucial role in maintaining peace in the Pacific Basin and the world.
Nearly 30 chapters throughout the United States offer cultural and educational programs, which, as is the case with the USCPFA Western Regional Conference, bring together local and international speakers who present lectures, films and activities that foster an understanding between the Chinese and American communities.
The upcoming conference, focused on the theme of The New Age of U.S.-China Relations, is expected to host nearly 120 participants. Among the keynote speakers at the conference is Nell Calloway, who is director of the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum in Monroe, LA.
Calloway is the granddaughter of General Claire Lee Chennault, who commanded The Flying Tigers fighter squadron formed by the American Volunteer Group to fend off enemy Japanese from taking over Mainland China during WWII.
“The mission of The U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association, to develop and strengthen friendship and understanding between the people of the U.S. and China, is something about which I feel very strongly,” said Calloway. “I spend a lot of time informing people of the need to build a better understanding between China and the U.S.”
Also scheduled to speak at the conference is retired Major General James T. Whitehead, Jr., USAF, who is the chairman of The Flying Tigers Historical Association. “Honoring past friendships and strengthening future people-to-people relationships is one of the main goals of The Flying Tigers Heritage Park we are now building in Guilin, China,” Whitehead said.
To recognize and commemorate the accomplishments forged between the Flying Tigers and the Chinese during World War II, the Heritage Park is being built at the location of General Chennault’s Command and Operations Cave in China.
Presentations will also be made by Qui Shaofang, Consul General of The People’s Republic of China to Los Angeles, and Congresswoman Judy Chu, who will speak about how “California Relates to the New China.” Additional seminars will include U.S. and Chinese educators, authors and students.
“Given the strong interdependence between the U.S. and China, more work is needed to develop everlasting friendships between the two peoples,” said Joe Eng, a Long Beach chapter member, who looks forward to the impact of the conference on local communities. “I personally believe U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association represents one of the instruments to achieving that goal.”
To learn more about the USCPFA Western Regional Conference, visit the organization’s website at www.uscpfa-wr.org. Participants may register for the conference via the website or make hotel reservations. More information on The Chennault Military and Aviation Museum can be found at www.chennaultmuseum.org.
The San Gabriel Hilton is located at 225 West Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel.