The Port of Los Angeles, a bustling hub along the U.S. west coast, is a constant hive of activity, witnessing the arrival and departure of massive container ships. One individual deeply connected to the port is Mark Wheeler, a retired vice president of the West Basin Container Terminal (WBCT). Despite residing in South Carolina since his retirement four years ago, Wheeler’s fond memories of the port remain vivid, especially the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2012.
On February 16, 2012, Xi, then the Vice President of China, toured a terminal operated by China’s shipping giant COSCO at the Port of Los Angeles. Wheeler, who served as the terminal operations manager at the time, recalls witnessing a remarkable story of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation between the U.S. and China.
Wheeler highlights Xi’s approachability during the visit, describing how the Chinese leader shook hands with everyone and waved enthusiastically to crew members on cargo ships. The Port of Los Angeles, the largest container port in the United States, serves as the primary entry point for Chinese goods into the country across the Pacific Ocean.
The collaboration between the U.S. and China began in 2001 when a COSCO subsidiary became a shareholder in the port, holding partial equity stakes in the WBCT at the Port of Los Angeles and the Pacific Container Terminal at the Port of Long Beach. This marked the onset of rapid development for the Port of Los Angeles.
By 2012, the WBCT’s annual container throughput reached 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), contributing 10 percent of the total at the Port of Los Angeles and generating $100 million in direct tax revenue for federal and local governments.
COSCO continued its commitment to practical cooperation and mutual benefit, expanding shipping routes, capital investment, and technological input in the entire Los Angeles region. This steadfast partnership has played a crucial role in U.S.-China trade, fostering the development of ports in the Los Angeles area.
The impact of this collaboration extends beyond the port itself. COSCO has directly created approximately 2,400 jobs in the United States and, through partnerships with various service providers, has generated around 15,000 additional jobs in the country.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, COSCO terminals in the U.S. played a vital role in delivering essential medical supplies to the Midwest through the Port of Long Beach, contributing significantly to the local response to the crisis.
Moreover, COSCO Shipping has prioritized environmental sustainability, aligning with the Californian government’s principles. The company has implemented initiatives such as ship speed reduction, shore power usage, and emissions control, actively participating in the protection of the ocean environment and marine life.
Paul Nazzaro, executive vice president of COSCO SHIPPING (North America), emphasizes the company’s dedication to protecting the Santa Barbara Channel, a major shipping lane and crucial habitat for migrating blue whales. COSCO’s eco-friendly operations have effectively reduced greenhouse gas and suspended particulate emissions.
Recognizing the significance of U.S.-China economic and trade cooperation, Brian Peck, Chair of the Los Angeles Regional Export Council, emphasizes the intertwined interests between California and China. He notes that California, with its close ties to China, represents a nexus of mutually beneficial cooperation.
Wheeler, expressing his hopes for the future, wishes for the United States and China, as the two largest economies, to find more common ground and continue writing stories of cooperation and win-win outcomes through exchanges and dialogues.