Schwarzenegger Promotes California in China
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger begins a six-day trade mission to East Asia today; this a welcomed break, probably, from his recent political woes back here at home. Last week, all of the governor's ballot measures were rejected by California voters. Many governors from other states go to China on these trade missions, but Arnold's enormous fame in China sets this mission apart from the rest. In a series of pieces from China this week, KPCC's Rob Schmitz reports.
ROB SCHMITZ reporting:
First, a quick Chinese lesson. (Foreign language spoken) means `I know.' (Foreign language spoken) means `I don't know.' Now let's hear those words answering an informal poll taken on Shanghai's busiest street. Question number one: `Do you know who New York Governor George Pataki is?'
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
SCHMITZ: Question number two: `Do you know who Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is?'
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
SCHMITZ: Question number three: `How about Arnold Schwarzenegger?'
Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)
SCHMITZ: In case you missed it, that was a very big (foreign language spoken), `I know.'
Although George Pataki has recently been on a trade mission to China and Tim Pawlenty is on one now, the one governor with a near-household name here is Mr. (Foreign language spoken); that's Chinese for `Schwarzenegger.' He's not known for his politics, though; he's the Terminator. US Commerce Department China specialist Jim Mayfield says that name recognition will open many a door for the governor this week.
Mr. JIM MAYFIELD (China Specialist, US Commerce Department): There are probably very few people in the world who can open doors like this governor because of his celebrity, as well as the fact that he's the governor of an extremely important state in the United States.
SCHMITZ: California exported $6.8 billion worth of goods last year to China, up 25 percent from the previous year, making China California's biggest growth market. Schwarzenegger spokesman Vince Soleto says this week, the governor will be pressing for more.
Mr. VINCE SOLETO (Spokesman for Governor Schwarzenegger): This trip, the governor will remind the Chinese people that they can be California by buying California, buy California-grown fruits and vegetables, invest in our country, buy our wine, respect our intellectual property rights, hold out for the real thing. And that's the overarching theme: Be California, buy California.
(Soundbite of traffic; crowd noise)
SCHMITZ: But here in the commercial center of Shanghai, folks seem to busy being Shanghai and buying products from all over the world to take notice. This cosmopolitan city of 20 million is the economic heart of China. There are twice as many skyscrapers here as in Manhattan, and scores of construction cranes fill the gaps between those skyscrapers. For a first-time visitor just off the plane, they might think this incredible skyline extends indefinitely. This idea that the rest of China is equally urbanized is common among businesses new to China, says the Commerce Department's Jim Mayfield.
Mr. MAYFIELD: If you get off the airplane in one of the smaller cities in the western provinces, you're going to see a totally different picture. You're going to see a picture of modesty.
SCHMITZ: That picture of modesty, a largely hand-to-mouth rural life, is reality for the vast majority of China's 1.3 billion people. Just a small fraction of that population--estimated at around 150 million people--make enough money to be labeled consumers. But that's still a lot of people, and Schwarzenegger's agenda this coming week will largely focus on them, from unveiling a TV ad with Jackie Chan encouraging the Chinese not to buy pirated DVDs to promoting California wines. Whatever the governor does in China this week is likely to be seen by a good portion of the Chinese public. Still, the Commerce Department's Jim Mayfield says he'll wait to declare the trade mission a success until the months following the mission.
Mr. MAYFIELD: When a California company is bidding on a project in, say, Beijing and the governor already has an existing relationship with officials there, well, at that point, the governor is going to be in a much better position to support California companies by picking up the phone, talking to people he's already met and has a rapport with.
SCHMITZ: And state officials are hoping that when the time comes for the governor to make that call, the Chinese official in question will be thrilled to talk to the famous (foreign language spoken). For NPR News, I'm Rob Schmitz in Beijing.
CHADWICK: And tomorrow, Rob reports on a California vintner who is toasting the Chinese market.
I'm Alex Chadwick. Stay with us. There's more just ahead on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.
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