Chinese Ambassador visits SCP

Chinese Ambassador Liu Jian, right, rides the escalator with Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing, upon his arrival to South Coast Plaza Tuesday. (Susan Hoffman, Daily Pilot / November 12, 2013)

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South Coast Plaza officials rolled out the red carpet Tuesday evening in preparation for a visit from a newly appointed Chinese dignitary, underscoring the center's billing of itself as a destination for international shoppers.

Cameras flashed and visitors lined up to greet Consul-General Ambassador Liu Jian, who was recently appointed to a post in Los Angeles.

Then a trail of well-wishers followed Liu on a brief tour of the mall — past glittering crystal snowflakes suspended in mid-air and strings of lights. The entourage paused near a towering Christmas tree in the center's Jewel Court, which is flanked by high-end brand stores already in full holiday mode.

"We're very flattered he'd come to South Coast Plaza," said Werner Escher, the center's executive director of domestic and international markets.

Liu's visit, he said, shows that South Coast Plaza is a "magnet for Orange County," on par with attractions such as Disneyland and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Robert Sun of the American Chinese CEO Society, which co-hosted Liu's visit, called the evening a "very special occasion."

At a ceremony outside Assouline books, where he was presented with a large coffee table book about Henry Segerstrom and the history of South Coast Plaza, Liu said it was his first visit to the city.

"I'm impressed by this shopping center," he said.

He thanked his hosts for the gift, which he said will tell him "how successful" the Segerstrom family has been in contributing to the economy.

The tour ended with dinner at the Capital Grille.