United States Opens New Consulate in Central China བོད་སྐད།

The United States has opened its fifth consulate general in China, in the Chinese heartland. The diplomatic facility was provided for in a 1981 agreement the two countries reached shortly after establishing diplomatic relations, nearly 30 years ago. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Nearly three decades after the United States and China agreed on posting staff in each other's countries, the American government Thursday opened a consulate-general in the central Chinese city, Wuhan.

Wendy Lyle, the new U.S. consul-general in Wuhan, says the new facility will largely focus on building Sino-American economic ties.

"We are only doing trade promotion, enhancing commercial activities, promoting exchange programs, academic and cultural exchange and citizens' exchange. So, these will be the important tests, for the initial period."

Lyle says, according to Chinese government records, there are nearly 500 U.S. companies already operating in Wuhan's home province, Hubei. She says beer maker Budweiser has its China headquarters in Wuhan. Other American companies, like Coca-Cola and Walmart, also have operations in the commercial city.

The territory covered by the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan includes four Chinese provinces and nearly 270-million people. Lyle, who has been in Wuhan for a year preparing for the consulate's opening, says local authorities asked her how to attract more Americans to set up business in the region.

"When the mayors met with us, talk about, 'Oh, what would be some of the things that the American companies would like to see here? What would it take to bring American companies to Wuhan?' I said, 'Starbucks.'"

She says this comment must have made an impact because the first Starbucks coffee shop in Wuhan opened, several months ago.

Lyle says the United States is the second foreign country to have diplomatic representation in Wuhan. France was the first.

The new U.S. consulate is a very small office. Right now, Lyle is the only American officer there. She says she will eventually be joined by an officer from the U.S. Department of Commerce, although she is not sure when. She says there are also plans to hire local support staff.

U.S. diplomatic facilities in China include an embassy in Beijing, as well as consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Chengdu.