High-ranking Chinese official says opportunity for Lawrence-China business relationships strong

Lawrence has about 900 reasons why it may have an advantage in creating prosperous business relationships with China, a top representative of the Chinese government said Wednesday during a Lawrence visit.

There are about 900 Chinese residents enrolled at the University of Kansas, and they represent a unique opportunity for Lawrence, said Hong Lei, a consul general for the People’s Republic of China.

“They can be a strong asset,” said Hong, who oversees the Chicago consulate office, which covers Kansas and eight other states. “They have an affection for this town and they would like to serve as a bridge between Lawrence and China.”

Hong was in Lawrence Wednesday to attend a performance at the Lied Center celebrating Chinese culture. Prior to the performance, he met with about 20 local government and business leaders, and also visited with companies at the Bioscience and Business Technology Center on KU’s West Campus.

Hong said there are some particular industries in the Lawrence region that could excel in the Chinese market.

“Your animal health industry is very strong,” he said. “I think you could find a lot of opportunities in this field.”

Hong also said the region’s aviation engineering programs are “very sophisticated,” which could make them a major player in China. He said China is estimated to have the largest fleet of airplanes in the world by 2030.

Larry McElwain, president and CEO of the Lawrence chamber of commerce, said Wednesday’s visit was a good first step in creating meaningful connections with Chinese officials. He said Hong was introduced to executives with KanPro Research, a Lawrence-based firm that specializes in protein research, and Ainstein, a Lawrence firm that is involved in radar remote sensing.

“I believe we can create those personal connections,” McElwain said. “The university being here is far and above the greatest economic development driver for this area. There are ways to connect with what is being done up there.”