California sets up shop in China

9:15 PM, Apr 12, 2013   |    comments
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SHANGHAI - Gov. Jerry Brown has officially planted the Bear Flag of California in China's bustling port city.

In an elaborate formal ceremony on Friday, the governor and business leaders launched a new California office of trade and investment in China, the first such state-sanctioned outpost in a decade.

"There's great opportunity," said Brown in the opening event, "from the intelligence of people in California and in China to collaborate."

The office, located in a modern campus-style enclave of businesses in Shanghai's Yangpu Disgtrict, is more private than publicly run. Authorized by legislation Brown signed last year, the office will be funded through donations sought by the Bay Area Council, a nonprofit business group in San Francisco. The plan calls for raising $1 million by the end of 2013 for its operations. The Brown administration, though, will play a major role in the selection of staff and other issues.

Friday's event included a number of speeches from both U.S. and local Chinese government officials. It also was punctuated by the announcement of four new California-China business deals, whose total value was estimated at as much as $250 million.

One of those announced was a $20 million partnership involving McWong Environmental and Energy Group, a Sacramento and Shanghai based company whose deal will involve development of a new waste discharge system.

The formal event at the new state office also included what has now become a staple of this eight day trade mission: a reception for California and Chinese business people to mix, mingle, and pitch each other on striking deals. The room designated for the business matchmaking event was cluttered with brochures of California companies, and clusters of men and women offering business cards (you offer it to someone with two hands in Chinese custom) and sipping glasses of orange juice.

The governor and the California delegation then headed to a formal banquet lunch hosted by the Yangpu District Communist Party, where Brown and party leaders exchanged gifts and dined on a multi-course lunch.

California's trade offices were closed in 2003 after numerous criticisms of too much political patronage and too little provable economic benefit. The real measure of the new Shanghai operation won't be seen for some time to come, but California business leaders in attendance this week were hopeful.

"It has the imprimatur of the Chinese government, the imprimatur of California's government," said Byron Georgiou, whose electric vehicle company is moving from Las Vegas to San Diego. "You know, a lot of things happen in China in public private partnerships."


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