California Gov. Meets With China’s President Xi

California Gov. Gavin Newsom with China President Xi Jinping
California Gov. Gavin Newsom with China's President Xi Jinping | Image by Gavin Newsom/Instagram

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is on a tour of China this week, where he was welcomed by President Xi Jinping himself and other high-ranking Chinese officials on Wednesday.

According to Politico, the meeting was the culmination of a visit promoted as an effort to address climate change and the fentanyl epidemic, the latter of which has been exacerbated by Chinese chemical companies that manufacture and distribute precursor chemicals used to make the synthetic opioid.

After meeting with Xi, Newsom told reporters the two discussed ways to “accelerate … progress on climate [change] in meaningful and substantive ways,” per the Associated Press.

Newsom reportedly encouraged Xi to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in San Francisco, but China has not formally confirmed Xi would attend.

Newsom’s visit and the high-level reception by Xi himself may signal a thaw in relations between the two countries. The prospect that Washington and Beijing could agree on much did not seem very likely last February, when President Joe Biden’s special climate envoy, John Kerry, could not get an audience with Xi during his own visit. Instead, Xi took the opportunity to give a speech rejecting a global path to emission reduction, stating China “will never be influenced by others,” per Politico.

Earlier in the day, Newsom met with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi. Ahead of that meeting, Newsom said, “I’m here in expectation, as you suggest, of turning the page, of renewing our friendship and re-engaging [on] foundational and fundamental issues that will determine our collective faith in the future.”

Newsom claimed he discussed the issue of human rights in China with Wang and expressed his support for the One-China policy when it comes to Taiwan.

“I expressed my support for the One-China policy … as well as our desire not to see independence,” Newsom said he told Chinese officials, according to the AP.

Wang also expressed his approval of Newsom’s controversial visit.

“[T]ime and facts will certainly prove that your visit to China is in line with California people’s wishes and in line with the American people’s interests and the expectations of the global society,” Wang said, per the AP.

Vice President Han Zheng, who called Newsom an “old friend,” was even more exuberant about the California governor’s visit, stating, “The China-U.S. relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, and the sub-national cooperation is an indispensable part to facilitate the sound and steady growth of China-U.S. relations.”

“I’m sure your weeklong trip will inject positive energy to the development of the China-U.S. relationship,” Han said, according to the AP.

“California has been much less hawkish on China than many states, and they have continued to engage in low-level cooperation [with China],” Sara Newland, an expert on local politics in China out of Smith College, told VOA News days before Newsom’s visit. “My guess is that China hopes there will be a bit of lower-stake form of engagement during Newsom’s visit.”

California has long had a close and unique relationship with China, as the governor’s office acknowledged when announcing the trip last week. The Golden State has more than twice as many Chinese Americans as New York, the state with the second-largest number of Chinese Americans. Today, people of Chinese descent account for 5% of California’s population, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

In San Francisco — where Gavin Newsom was mayor for seven years before he was elected lieutenant governor and then governor — people of Chinese descent comprise the single largest ethnic group.

San Francisco is also the heart of Silicon Valley, where U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies claim the bulk of Beijing’s systematic theft of U.S. high-tech intellectual property takes place, according to a recent report by The New York Times. The FBI has also warned Texas-based research institutions that Chinese espionage targeting intellectual property is taking place in the target-rich tech corridor of Texas, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

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