Enterprise and ‘people-to-people’ diplomacy | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Enterprise and ‘people-to-people’ diplomacy

/ 01:24 AM September 25, 2015

KUNMING—I’ve often wondered how the uniquely Chinese blend of capitalism and communism—private enterprise coupled with state control—works out in reality.

Some answers were provided during our visit to two facilities in Yunnan—one a huge pharmaceutical company, the other a very modest garments firm—that demonstrated how the two attributes combine and complement each other.

The Yunnan Baiyao Group’s headquarters are located in a vast, pasture-like property outside this city, manufacturing and distributing traditional Chinese medicines and, of late, also venturing into the hotel industry and other investments.

Its first and still most famous product is “Yunnan Baiyao” or “Yunnan white medicine,” an herbal concoction that stops bleeding or hemorrhage. On the floor of the welcome center that greets visitors are photos of various plants used in the company’s many products, testament to the almost-literal roots of the company’s booming business.

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Around the city of Kunming and throughout the province of Yunnan and even outside of it can be found drug stores bearing the company’s brand, so famous that one of our delegation christened it “China’s Mercury.” We were most attracted to, of course, the cosmetic products that promise a fair complexion, as well as pain medications, including a pair of sprays—one to be used to ease the initial sting of a wound, and the other to prevent infection.

So successful is Yunnan Baiyao that it is today one of the top 100 enterprises in China, as well as one of its top 50 “best performing” enterprises.

We toured its packaging facilities as well as the production line of the boxed set of antipain sprays, which use presumably famous Chinese sports figures (soccer players, as far as we could tell) as endorsers.

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WE were to be reminded of Yunnan Baiyao once more during our visit to Fengling Garments Ltd., when we saw blue lab uniforms used by the drug company’s employees being sewn there. Most intriguing were the light blue “hazmat” suits that the husband of the proprietor donned for us, presumably used in the laboratory facilities. The uniforms, he said, are both waterproof and fireproof.

Compared to the giant Yunnan Baiyao, Fengling is but a fledgling, even though it is celebrating its 20th year. It has a modest complement of 70 workers, starting with an initial capital of Y80,000 and growing to its present annual capitalization of Y20 million (about P7 million).

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The garments firm was begun by Madame Lu, who was herself a garments worker before venturing on her own, using an old sewing machine “in poor condition,” and cutting cloth on the wooden deck of a vegetable stand during the down times. But with initial funding from the Yunnan Provincial Women’s Federation, which assists women entrepreneurs, she was able to grow the business until it became stable enough to enable her and her husband, who is the company manager, to borrow from private banks.

“We are planning to go international,” said the husband, whose name I didn’t catch. “Our dream is to become one of the biggest [garments] factories in China in 10 years.”

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AS I write this, we are set to visit the International Department of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, sitting down in discussions with Rao Huishua, deputy director general of its Asian Bureau. Madame Rao had earlier joined us in Guangdong but left for Beijing for meetings, leaving us in the capable hands of her deputies.

After the discussion, Chen Fen Xiang, vice minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, is to host us for a luncheon, where we hope to return his hospitality by “regaling” him with a Filipino song as well as a popular Chinese romantic ballad that we learned from a guide during the long bus trips.

I hope Vice Minister Chen appreciates the effort, as I understand the entire Chinese party machinery is all abuzz while President Xi Jinping is on a state visit to the United States. This early, our group of women thanks him and Madame Rao for taking the time to host us.

This is not the first time for a delegation from the Philippines, or even a group from the Association of Women Legislators Foundation Inc., to visit China. The visits and exchanges, said Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia, president of the association, are all part of the “people-to-people” diplomacy that is the softer, more personal, but at times more successful face of foreign relations.

The cultivation of “people-to-people” exchanges is all the more important at this time of testy relations between the Philippines and China, and this visit of the congresswomen should prove to be an eye-opener—for both sides, it is hoped.

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FOR this trip, Manay Gina put together a delegation that is remarkable for its diversity—in personalities, political leanings, life experiences, and even sense of humor.

For the last, we can count on Aurora Rep. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, who is marking a birthday. There is also Pangasinan Rep. Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas, who softens sometimes-heated exchanges with her humorous asides. Bulacan Rep. Linabelle Ruth Villarica, chair of the House committee on women and gender relations, is with us as well.

Three party-list representatives are with the group: Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Angelina Katoh of Akbayan and Erlinda Santiago of One-SAGIP.

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Others in the delegation: Representatives Malou Acosta-Alba, Belma Cabilao, Gwen Garcia (a former governor of Cebu), Ana Cristina Go, Ann Hofer, Olga Kho, Marie Anne Pernes and Juliette Uy.

TAGS: business, Diplomacy, enterprise, Industry, opinion

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