Disney diplomacy: US commerce secretary visits China theme park

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo went to Shanghai Disneyland and a Boeing facility in China Wednesday, touting two essential American exports as she completed a trip which had a goal of boosting Chinese-U.S. business partnerships. After a four-day visit mostly which included lengthy sessions in rooms with Chinese government officials, Raimondo got a rapid tour of the Disney park.

“It’s a prominent form of soft power for the U.S.,” Raimondo said. “It’s an iconic U.S. brand, it’s beautiful.” Raimondo, who was along with U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, agreed it was her very first visit to a Disney park but also that she had watched every animated Disney movies. “How cool is this?” she said.

Disney has given importance to its Chinese connections since Shanghai Disneyland – a collaborative goal with state-ruled Shendi party – opened in 2016. Its attractions involve a Chinese-style Wandering Moon tea house, a Chinese Zodiac-themed garden and a Tarzan musical featuring Chinese acrobats. But there was abundance of American traditions on display – a Taylor Swift song playing on a loudspeaker, Wolfgang Puck pizza and Mickey Mouse everywhere.

Raimondo has conveyed that raising tourism between the two nations was one goal of her going to China. On her last day in China, she also encountered with students to New York University and talked to a women’s business group. In the ending of a trip, she was seen with a press conference at a Boeing facility in Shanghai in a hanger. One huge question is when China will again start deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX passenger jets after more than four years.

Raimondo said in 2021 the Chinese government was preventing its domestic airlines from purchasing U.S.-manufactured Boeing airplanes. She said on Tuesday she had brought up the airplane concerns in meetings with the Chinese government but got no commitments.