California says to China “Here we come”
Brown's appeal for Middle Kingdown investment dollars is an important piece of the state's future (Photo Credit: Randy Bayne)
California's unofficial state song famously opens with the words "California Here I Come."
This week, it might be revised to say "China, Here We Come."
Governor Jerry Brown is leading a delegation of Californians to China this week in order to promote the Golden State as a place for Chinese investment.
The idea is to talk up California exports, tourism and greenhouse gas reduction policies with the goal of increasing China's investments in the Golden State. China is already the third largest trading partner with California behind Mexico and Canada.
"The timing of this mission couldn't be better for California's economy," said Pete Weber a Fresno business leader who is a member of California Forward's Leadership Council. "China's shift toward increasing domestic consumption brings great opportunities for U.S. exporters."
California is also going to open--or maybe it's better to say "re-open"--the California-China Trade and Investment Office in Shanghai. California closed its trade office in China ten years ago, and business leaders in the state have been urging the move, which is being funded by private donations from the Bay Area Business Council.
The potential for this trip is "enormous" according to a spokesperson from the Governor's Office for Business and Economic Development, also known as GO-Biz, which is organizing the trip for around 100 California government and business leaders.
"China's $1.5 billion in foreign direct investment in California represents about one quarter of all their investments in the U.S.," added Weber. "That investment is highly likely to grow."
One of the priorities of the California Economic Summit over the last year has been to increase the state's ability to compete in a global economy. So expanding the state's visibility in a huge market like China makes great sense.
Governor Brown, who celebrated his 75th birthday over the weekend, initially expressed some skepticism about the value of this trip. But the fact that the famously penurious Governor has embraced the idea tells us that he thinks there is real potential for success here.
"They've got $400 billion or $500 billion they're going to invest abroad, so California's got to get a piece of that," Brown said in an interview last week ahead of his seven-day trip to China
One area that will be explored is direct Chinese investment into California infrastructure. The Chinese government recently donated $100,000 to a hospital in San Francisco that treats Chinese immigrants. (Here's how China Daily reported that story).
But the potential for much larger investments is on the agenda.
Bigger investments, like helping create a national network of natural gas fueling stations in the U.S., have also been announced recently by Chinese companies. One of the leaders in creating a natural gas network of stations is a California company, Clean Energy Fuels, which is headquartered in Seal Beach.
Brown hopes to also attract Chinese investment into the almost $70 billion high-speed rail project.