News Column

Xi Visit Shows Growing Importance of Pacific Powers

June 5, 2013

Andy Goldberg, dpa

Chinese president Xi Jinping (photo: U.S. Defense Dept.)
Chinese president Xi Jinping (photo: U.S. Defense Dept.)

When Chinese President Xi Jinping visits California Friday and Saturday, the main focus will be on his meeting with US President Barack Obama.

But his presence in the Golden State will also tell a different story of increasingly close links between the richest, most technically advanced state in the US and the economic superpower that is China.

Those growing ties can be seen on a gritty Oakland waterfront on the San Francisco Bay. Blessed with a world class view and a short subway ride to San Francisco, the waterfront has been blighted by its busy port and crime-ridden hinterland.

But thanks to a recent deal reached on an April visit to China by California Governor Jerry Brown, the area is soon to witness the rise of a 1.5-billion-dollar complex of luxury high-rise residential towers and sprawling parks that could transform the troubled city.

Dean Fealk, a leading high tech lawyer and a member of Brown's delegation on that visit, says that this partnership between the world's second-largest economy and its most innovative economy could have far-reaching repercussions, not only economically but politically too.

His basic thesis, outlined recently in the Atlantic magazine, is that California has a key role to play in forging closer ties with China at a time when Washington is hog-tied with partisan politics and xenophobic grandstanding by politicians in Congress.

For California the benefits are obvious.

It wants Chinese investment and know-how to build the high-speed bullet train that is planned to link Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It wants access to China's growing middle class - the largest in history - to buy the iPhones, wines and other technology and agriculture products that are made in the state.

It wants more Chinese investment in its 1.9-trillion-dollar economy.

And it wants Chinese tourists to keep coming to California and spending their money here.

The state's near mythical brand makes it a stellar destination for China's armies of tourists. One of every two Chinese visitors to the US comes to California, and one of every three visits Los Angeles.

According to Susan Stirling of the California Chamber of Commerce, more than 500,000 Chinese travellers visited California last year, injecting 1.5 billion dollars into the local economy.

Those numbers are rising fast. This year their spending in California will reach 2 billion dollars, and by 2015 more than 1.1 million Chinese tourists are projected to visit the state.

With each visitor spending an average of about 3,000 dollars compared with just 1,800 dollars for other international visitors, that would be a remarkable boom for California's malls, where designer goods such as Coach, Prada, Nike and Polo are much cheaper than in China.

But the trade benefits are not all one way. China wants California's tech-savvy entrepreneurs to help it move up the value chain, by creating a more innovative business culture and higher value goods. California's experience in combating pollution is also highly regarded in China's smog-filled industrial cities.

"California sent a clear message to China: We are open for business," noted Fealk. "And as we work with China, through commerce and areas of common benefit, perhaps we, as a nation, will be better positioned to solve the more intractable issues that divide us."

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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