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California Dreamin’… About China

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Pacific Money

California Dreamin’… About China

California’s Governor spent the week in China in a bid to develop stronger ties across multiple fronts. Did he succeed?

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. spent the week in China meeting with officials in a bid to bring a greater share of China’s growing investment and trade with the United States to his state.

At a dinner held in his honor shortly after arriving in China, Governor Brown told his audience, “We’re from California….  We're not interested in politics. We're interested in business."

To facilitate greater economic cooperation between the American state and China, Governor Brown announced that California— which is located on the western coast of the United States— was establishing a trade mission inside China.

“California is the gateway to the Pacific and this office in China will help businesses large and small expand trade and jobs,” Governor Brown proclaimed after announcing the trade mission.

Additionally, on Tuesday Governor Brown met with China’s Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng to sign the first deal between the Ministry of Commerce and a subnational entity like California, according to a press release from the Governor’s office. The deal created a joint working group between California, the Ministry of Commerce, and six Chinese provinces— Jiangsu, Inner Mongolia, Shanghai, Shandong, Guangdong and Chongqing.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed this week, which had apparently been discussed by Governor Brown and Xi Jinping during the latter’s visit to California in February of last year, said the working group would try to further cooperation in nine crucial sectors including, “infrastructure, biotechnology, information technology, agriculture, energy, manufacturing, tourism, environmental protection and exhibitions.”

Indeed, Governor Brown sought to increase his state’s cooperation with China on infrastructure related projects during his visit this week. One of Brown’s top economic advisors, Mike Rossi, was seeking to woo Chinese businessmen into investing in California’s proposed US$68 billion high-speed rail project. China has an extensive high speed rail system itself, although it has suffered from innumerable safety issues since its inception. These issues did not stop Brown and members of his delegation from riding on the high-speed rail during their visit this week.

Governor Brown has been aggressively pushing for the construction of a high speed rail system in California. In 2008 California voters approved issuing of US$10 billion of bonds but have been reluctant to put down any more money on the project. Thus the project got a much needed boost when China’s Vice Minister Wang Chao, told a conference this week that his country should explore, "the possibility of investment in the high-speed rail project in California."

One key area of cooperation for China is green energy and environment. Many of the pollution issues Chinese cities like Beijing are currently trying to grapple with were previously found in California cities like Los Angeles. The hope then is that California can help China find solutions that preserve growth while reining in some of the most environmentally unsustainable practices.

To that end Governor Brown and China’s Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian signed a non-binding agreement on Wednesday pledging that California and China would “enhance cooperation on reducing air pollution." Under the agreement, California promises to help China stand up institutions to regulate air quality as well as engage in mutual research, according to The Los Angeles Times. Governor Brown also dedicated a speech at the Tsinghua University to the issue of climate change.

Zachary Keck serves as assistant editor for The Diplomat.