Learning From U.K. On China Visas

As Washington policy-makers continue to wrangle over the budget and Obamacare, they delay having substantive discussions to advance other long-overdue important measures, such as immigration reform and economic initiatives to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Meanwhile, other nations are proceeding post haste with initiatives that are going to position their countries to compete much more strongly in the global marketplace. Take the U.K., for instance. It recently announced that visa applications for Chinese tourists entering its country would be simplified. Under the present system, Chinese tourists can apply for a single visa to visit much of Europe, but a separate one is needed to travel to Great Britain. Obviously, the extra and cumbersome paperwork has served as a disincentive for Chinese visitors to include the U.K. in a trip to the European continent. By moving toward a mobile visa scheme, it will seek out the applicants to gather their paperwork and biometric data, and the whole process promises to take less than five minutes! Furthermore, a “super priority” 24-hour visa service will be launched in 2014.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, in a speech at a joint Chinese-British forum announcing the visa changes, stated, “What I really want it to be about is strengthening the understanding between our two nations, deepening our friendship …”

I have been a longtime proponent of more visa waiver measures with Asian nations. Now, if the Brits can somehow figure out how to work through their security concerns and the myriad other issues that have prevented them from making these innovative changes to their Chinese travel policy earlier, why can’t the U.S. do the same? After all, hasn’t America, on several occasions, through a variety of important voices in the government, military and economic sectors, proclaimed that the U.S. is a “Pacific nation” and that this is the “Age of the Pacific Century”?

Let’s take a page from the U.K., sooner rather than later.

“Quarterback” Tsutsui – The Key To State Sports Initiative

There were several less than enthusiastic reactions to the Sports Development Initiative announced recently by Gov. Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. Tsutsui. Some in the sporting community panned it as much ado about nothing. One local sportswriter characterized the governor’s press conference as providing “no real answers” and only raised “questions about every sports-money-political issue that has come up over the past 20 years.” Another media editorial pooh-poohed it by asserting that it offered “no specifics at all” and that “it would have been nice” if they had a “world class event” to announce as “proof that the state had been looking at these opportunities all along.”

The central figure in all of this is our Maui-bred lieutenant governor, who is very active in the youth sports activities of his children. Tsutsui has a reputation of working well with others and is not prone to pushing only his ideas.

To “quarterback” this initiative, he needs to assemble a team (a blue-ribbon committee of local sports experts would be helpful), develop a realistic game plan and complete a few “short passes” to build some confidence and public support. That said, he’s probably “the new face and the breath of fresh air” that the NFL would welcome from the state’s team to kick-start the dialogue to keep the Pro Bowl link with Hawaii strong, as well as develop other areas of opportunities for both sides.

Secondly, the LG would be wise to call upon the Hawaii Council of Mayors in promoting his sports agenda. For instance, if hosting the America’s Cup is going to be a major goal, having the Maui and Honolulu mayors on the team working with him to persuade Lanai owner Larry Ellison to help lure the Cup to the 50th State could prove to be very effective.

Finally, prep football has come under fire lately regarding lopsided victories, forfeits and the like. The LG perhaps could be the catalyst for change by providing encouragement and state support, working with a team of school athletic directors and the HHSAA to develop a better and fairer format for all the leagues in Hawaii.

I believe Tsutsui is up to the challenge. He got high marks for his leadership skills as a Senate president. It won’t be easy, but he’ll be off to a good start and, if anything, erase some of the initial skepticism by transferring those proven skills to the athletic playing fields.