California’s ‘Chinese Dream’

As I cruised down the Huangpu River past glimmering Shanghai high-rises with California Governor Jerry Brown and Chinese former NBA player Yao Ming, I could not help thinking that they may have at first blush appeared an odd couple. But their meeting marked not only another chapter in sports diplomacy, but also the culmination of one of the largest U.S.-China trade and investment delegations in history. What this delegation forged in China foretells of not only critical opportunities for the Golden State and U.S. economies, but also the possible future face of diplomacy and economic engagement.

Why California’s Governor would be leading a diplomatic trade mission to a foreign country may not be immediately intuitive. But on further inspection, it’s worth understanding what the world’s second-largest economy and its most innovative economy have to discuss. To start with, they are already close trading partners. China is California’s third largest export market (after Canada and Mexico), and this trade is growing precipitously. Likewise, an annual $1.3 billion in Chinese foreign direct investment in California five years ago is anticipated to grow to an aggregate $60 billion over the coming decade. Additionally, the more than a million annual Chinese tourists that already visit California is expected to double in the next two years alone.

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