California and China — a match made in heaven? (Photo: Grunge Textures )
More than 100 delegates visited four cities in China during an eight-day, whirlwind trip that had one mission—promote California as the place to do business and the place to invest.
Governor Jerry Brown recently led the delegation of Californians to China. Kish Rajan, Director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, took part and believes the trip can be successfully measured in three ways.
First and most importantly, for the first time in 10 years, California opened–or re-opened–the California-China Trade and Investment office in Shanghai. In 2003, the trade office was closed down. Since then, business leaders and economic developers have been urging for it to return.
“It creates a physical presence, sustained presence. It creates a program that will be staffed by people there in the country, continuing to cultivate and strengthen our brand, our presence in the critical market so those business interests in china have a local office they can go to, to help move that forward,” said Rajan.
Rajan believes the timing of the trade office could not have happened at a better time, as Chinese interest in California, is “extremely high.”
That brings us to Rajan’s second measure of success: relationships that were formed with each of the members of the delegation and Chinese investors.
The delegation was “able to engage with business interests in China and those interactions were really positive and they clearly demonstrated just how interested China business interests are in California.”
“Chinese investors really want to consume the products and services that California produces. Whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s software, whether it’s biotech, or travel and tourism, the China market is growing dramatically and they want to consume and import a lot of our goods and services,” said Rajan.
It’s quite clear, Chinese interests have money, and a lot of it, to spend and they want to do it in the Golden State. Opportunities are plenty with those new partnerships.
“While in China, we announced a $1.5 billion development project that happened in Oakland. Chinese investor capital was used to finance a construction project that, when it’s done, it’s going to have a huge positive impact on the East Bay Area, and Oakland in particular, because it’s going to develop an area that’s right now a bit old and dilapidated. The investment will form it into something really valuable.”
The last, but certainly not the least, measure of success comes on the policy front. Governor Brown made it a top priority to address climate change.
“The Governor was so incredibly passionate and articulate and compelling in constructing a dialogue at the policy level between the California government and the Chinese government to say, how can we work together on a problem that affects the whole world?”
Rajan believes the Governor was effective at engaging folks who wanted to collaborate with California, in fact, a memorandums were signed “about collaborating and partnering on a lot of things we learned in California about pollution—which everyone knows is a serious problem in China.”
“I thought they were incredibly candid in acknowledging the problem and wanting to turn to California as a partner in solutions. I think it was the candor of our Governor that allowed them to let down their guards,” said Rajan.
Eventually, all the policy talk was followed by several business deal discussions.
“There’s also a large amount of business to be done. The business of dealing with climate change is really effective when you think about the proliferation of electric vehicles. One of the stops we made was to an electric vehicle manufacturing business called BYD or Build Your Dreams.”
BYD just won a contract in Long Beach, to produce 10 state-of-the-art, electric buses for the Long Beach Transit Authority. Now BYD is looking to establish a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. The company also wants to build a manufacturing facility in L.A. County to build and manufacture those buses and other electric vehicles.
“It’s a policy connection that creates very clear business opportunities,” said Rajan.
The dust from the trip may have settled. Each of the delegation members have gone back to their respective regions. But the work is not done. What’s up next?
The California-China Trade Office, which is being funded by private donations from the Bay Area Council, will now be staffed.
“The trade office will work to fill a funnel of deal opportunities, to help penetrate those markets and grow our market presence in China. It’ll also help create a robust pipeline of Chinese capital investment in California.The office is going to be that center of gravity to promote commerce in both directions. We’re also going to use this time to build on the innovation and the technology and the manufacturing that’s associated with a serial carbon economy, where we want to build out energy technologies to renew our approach to becoming a cleaner planet. That is our continued mission,” said Rajan.
I guess there is no rest for the weary, especially for those who are working to make California a global competitor.