The highest-ranking United States official in China spent time traveling across Yunnan this week. Ambassador Max Baucus' trip south of the clouds lasted five days, during which he switched hats between that of well-heeled tourist and diplomat.
Baucus first visited Xishuangbanna, where he explored a cross-border elephant reserve that extends south into Laos. The goal of the ambassador's multiple stops in Yunnan was to "promote cultural exchanges between China and the United States and allow more Americans to understand southwest China", according to a report by Yunnan Net.
Another travel destination on the itinerary for Baucus was Xizhou. There, he called on the founders of the Linden Centre, Brian and Jeanee Linden. The ambassador recognized the couple for their architectural preservation work and cultural outreach programs, which are centered around their boutique hotel and retreat set inside a restored Bai minority building complex.
Those two stops were not only covered by Chinese media, but were also reported on by Baucus himself. The ambassador used mobile messaging and social networking platform WeChat to share photos from his travels in the province and, in his own words, "let my friends know more about Yunnan."
Baucus ended his Yunnan trip in Kunming, giving a speech at the Flying Tigers Museum, which is housed in a wing of the Kunming Museum on Tuodong Lu. He suggested filmmakers in the United States and China should work together and produce a film telling the story of how servicemen from the two countries joined forces during World War II.
Telling the story of the Flying Tigers, Baucus argued, would not only illuminate an oft-forgotten part of history, but could also provide a showcase for many of Yunnan's more beautiful landscapes. "We cannot forget the bravery and sacrifices by men and women on both sides that came together for a common cause," he said.
His Yunnan trip was part of a promise Baucus apparently made to Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014 shortly after being named ambassador. "When I first came to office, I assured President Xi I would travel to every Chinese province — not just to have a look, but also to learn about each place," he said.
While fulfilling his pledge to Xi may be imminently doable, getting a hagiographic film made about the Flying Tigers might be much more difficult. Nearly six years ago, director John Woo was slated to team up with Tom Cruise on just such a film. Although the movie was slated to be the most costly ever shot in China, it was never made.
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