Disney diplomacy: US commerce secretary visits China theme park

By David Shepardson

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo visited Shanghai Disneyland and a Boeing facility in China Wednesday, touting two prominent American exports as she wrapped up a trip aimed at boosting Chinese-U.S. business ties.

After a four-day visit largely filled with long sessions in rooms with Chinese government officials, Raimondo got a quick tour of the Disney park.

"It's an important form of soft power for the U.S.," Raimondo said. "It's an iconic U.S. brand, it's gorgeous."

Raimondo, who was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, confessed she had never before been to a Disney park but said she had seen all of the animated Disney movies.

"How cool is this?" she said.

Disney has emphasized its Chinese links since Shanghai Disneyland - a joint venture with state-owned Shendi Group - opened in 2016.

Its attractions include a Chinese-style Wandering Moon tea house, a Chinese Zodiac-themed garden and a Tarzan musical featuring Chinese acrobats.

But there was plenty of American culture on display - a Taylor Swift song playing on a loudspeaker, Wolfgang Puck pizza and Mickey Mouse everywhere.

At one point, a seven-year-old Chinese girl wagging the tail of her LinaBell costume ran over a gave Raimondo a big hug and the pair spoke in English.

Raimondo has said that boosting tourism between the two countries was one objective of her visit to China.

On her last day in China, she also met with students to New York University and spoke to a women's business group.

She ends her trip with a press conference at a Boeing facility in Shanghai in a hanger. One big open question is when will China resume 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 buying U.S.-manufactured Boeing airplanes. She said on Tuesday she had raised the airplane issue in meetings with the Chinese government but won no commitments.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Angus MacSwan)