Mayor mulls China trip | ParkRecord.com

Mayor mulls China trip

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Dana Williams usually keeps to himself the fact that his political philosophy was partially influenced by Mao Zedong.

Williams, the popular second-term mayor of Park City, is considering taking a trip later in 2007 in which he would likely learn more about the late Zedong, the infamous communist Chinese leader, and other issues in modern-day China.

Williams says he might accompany Park City students to China when they travel as part of an exchange program that Park City has participated in for 14 years. He says he has not committed to the trip but he says it would be intriguing.

The mayor says he would discuss issues like global tourism and visit sites like Tiananmen Square, the site of a 1989 student uprising that the Chinese brutally put down.

"I don’t know if I’ve left town for 2 1/2 weeks in 10 years. I have a lot of logistics to work out to see if I can do this," Williams says.

Williams says the trip might occur Oct. 13-29, when the campaign for the Park City Council will be in its final stages. The mayor’s office is not on the ballot in 2007 and Williams typically does not campaign for others on Park City ballots.

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Williams says he would probably pay for his airfare and the organizers would fund most of the rest of the expenses.

Shirley Smith, an organizer, says Williams would benefit from the trip and would return with "an awareness of a culture and a country very different than our own."

"I think Park City, being an international sort of city, has an obligation to open itself up to the world," she says.

Smith says Park City high-schoolers travel to China every two years as part of the exchange program. Chinese students visit Park City every two years as well.

"They are so pleased how Park City has welcomed them," Smith says about the Chinese who have visited.

Williams says he has addressed two groups of students visiting Park City as part of the program. He says he spoke during a session attended by the students about government and activism. He has never visited China.

Williams says the rest of the world influences Park City, because it attracts employees from abroad and is seen as an international skiing destination.

"Park City is an international community, whether it’s tourism or the workforce," he says.

But during his term as mayor, Williams has been selective when considering international affairs. He sees global environmental initiatives, such as the Kyoto accord, as being important to City Hall, but has long said that the Iraqi war, for example, is not an issue that the local government should address.

The benefits of a Chinese trip to regular Parkites is difficult to handicap. Williams, for instance, admits he is unsure how he could relate Park City’s tourism-reliant economy to China, an emerging economic giant.

Williams, who rose to political prominence as the leader of development watchdog Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth, says, when he was younger, he read The Little Red Book, Zedong’s treatise, and the book influenced him about the importance of activism.

"I admired the philosophy. I certainly was not an admirer of the various purges and the implementation of the philosophy," Williams says.

A stop at Tiananmen Square, he says, would remind him of Vietnam War-era America and make him contemplate what many in the West see as China’s poor record of treating dissidents.

"I would be thinking of Kent State," Williams says, referring to the killings of four students during a 1970 Vietnam War protest. "I am certainly cognizant of the fact their country still has a lot of human-rights issues."