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California Governor Newsom, China’s Xi Discuss Climate, Fentanyl

California Governor Gavin Newsom met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday, raising hopes that China and the United States can find common ground ahead of an APEC summit in San Francisco next month.

Xi and U.S President Joe Biden are expected to meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, November 11-17. A meeting has not been confirmed although a planned visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Washington on Thursday is also seen as paving the way for further high-level meetings between the United States and China.

Xi said in a statement to Newsom, according to CCTV, China’s official broadcaster, “I hope your visit will enhance mutual understanding between the two sides and play a positive role in expanding cooperation between China and California and promoting the healthy and stable development of Sino-U.S. relations.”

The 45-minute China-California surprise sit-down was closed to the press, but Newsom told reporters after the meeting that he spoke substantively on the issue of climate change with Xi.

“We’re not going to move the needle on climate change unless the United States and China collaborate together,” said Newsom, who was elected lieutenant governor of California in 2010. He was elected governor of California in 2018.

Newsom said there are “strategic red lines” in the relationship between the world’s top two greenhouse gas emitters, but both sides are capable of managing them.

During their meeting, Xi told Newsom that there was “huge potential” for the two countries to cooperate on green development and addressing climate change, according to CCTV.

The two also discussed fentanyl, a deadly drug that in 2022 was related to more than 6,095 deaths in California.

“The president was rather explicit about the desire to be even more specific in terms of what is needed, in terms of calling out and identifying where these chemicals are going,” Newsom added, according to Politico.

Newsom said he had specifically brought up the impact fentanyl has had in his hometown of San Francisco, where he was elected mayor in 2003, a post he held until he became lieutenant governor.

Of the city’s 620 overdose deaths in 2022, 72% were attributed to fentanyl. Newsom called the fentanyl discussion “remarkably positive.”

“We talked about precursor chemicals, we talked about the importance of the issue and how it’s become a leading cause of death in the United States,” Newsom said.

Newsom also said Xi spoke fondly of a 1985 trip to the U.S. when as secretary of the Zhengding County Committee of the Communist Party of China he visited the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, a city with its own strong ties to China, according to Politico. Over a fifth of San Franciscans, about 180,000 people, had Chinese roots in 2021, according to the U.S. Census. The city’s total population is slightly more than 815,000.

California’s ties to China are deep, starting with the arrival of Chinese laborers during the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. Today, 32% of Chinese immigrants to the U.S. reside in California.

China is California’s largest trading partner, and the “Golden State” is the largest importer of Chinese goods in America, according to Newsom’s office. California exports to China totaled $18.15 billion in 2022, a 9.12% increase from the year before, according to the California Chamber of Commerce.

Newsom is not the first California governor to visit China with an agenda that included climate change. His predecessors Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger also traveled to China, where the state maintains a trade office.

Brown visited during both during his terms in office, in 1977 and 2013, pitching wine, produce and technology. Newsom has signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, on climate cooperation.

But Newsom’s visit comes at a particularly fraught time in U.S.-China relations with tensions rising over the future of self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing considers its own territory, a persistent trade war and human rights.

When asked whether he discussed human rights issues with Xi, Newsom said he did not, but he did discuss human rights with Foreign Minister Wang in a separate meeting. And Newsom said he brought up the imprisonment of California resident David Lin, whom the United States government says is wrongfully imprisoned in China.

The weeklong visit, which began on Monday with stops in Hong Kong and Shenzhen before the meetings with senior officials in Beijing on Wednesday, got mixed reviews from Los Angeles residents interviewed by VOA Mandarin. Several suggested the trip was mostly about adding some international heft to the governor’s resume.

Zac Gunnel, a game publisher, said, “I know he and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are both traveling abroad because they see themselves as potential American candidates in 2028.”

But Koke Wang, a fashion designer, admitted she didn’t know much about Newsom’s agenda in China, other than to say “Awesome. Climate change. Definitely.”

Source : VOA News