(CNS) Posted Thursday February 16, 2012– 10:10am
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to be the next president of the world’s most populous nation, comes to Los Angeles today for a quick visit expected to include a visit to the Port of Los Angeles, the announcement of an entertainment deal involving a major studio, and an economic forum downtown.
Xi, whose visit is the first to Los Angeles by a high-level Chinese official in 13 years, also will watch Friday’s Los Angeles Lakers game with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before flying home.
Analysts say the trip could offer an important Sino-American relationship-building opportunity in the shipping, tourism and entertainment industries. They also expect Villaraigosa and Gov. Jerry Brown to push hard for Chinese investment in a planned high-speed rail project from Los Angeles to San Francisco and regional L.A. County transit projects.
Xi is scheduled to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport from Iowa around 1:30 p.m. Brown and Villaraigosa will be at LAX to welcome Xi, who experts believe will become China’s president next year and hold the post for 10 years.
The officials will then travel to the Port of Los Angeles to visit the China Shipping terminal, which is undergoing a $121 million expansion that will more than double its space at the port to 142 acres.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said she is honored to host Xi.
“For many years, China has been and continues to be the port’s leading trading partner in terms of both imports and exports,” Knatz said. In 2011, total trade between China and the Port of L.A. was valued at more than $133 billion.
Members of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, which supports Tibetan autonomy and accuses China of human rights violations, are expected to arrive by bus in Southern California today to protest Xi’s visit.
“This is a big opportunity for us to show the Chinese officials that all Tibetans stand in solidarity, and we will continue to fight for our country,” the group said on its website.
Xi has no public events tonight but a packed schedule on Friday, when he is expected to announce a deal with DreamWorks Animation to jointly build and operate a studio in Shanghai with two state-owned Chinese media companies, Shanghai Media Group and China Media Capital.
The deal, which would have the three companies produce original films and television programs for the Chinese audience, would give DreamWorks Animation the most significant access to China’s media market of any company, the Financial Times reported.
Xi, Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Villaraigosa will speak at the China-U.S. Economic Trade Forum at the JW Marriott near L.A. Live Friday morning. Afterward, Xi, Bryson and Villaraigosa plan to rendezvous with Vice President Joe Biden at a Los Angeles school before a welcome luncheon hosted by Villaraigosa at the JW Marriott.
Chinese officials will also attend a private agreement-signing between city officials and the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corporation. The city will commit to helping the company find possible sites for expansion and network with possible clients in the city. ZTE will commit to expand the company’s scope in Los Angeles.
Also on Friday, Brown will host a U.S. and Chinese Governors’ Roundtable at Walt Disney Concert Hall starting at 3:30 p.m.
Xi’s visit comes on the heels of Villaraigosa’s trade mission to China and other Asian countries in December, when the two met to discuss trade and business opportunities in the city.
“I am honored that Vice President Xi Jinping accepted my invitation to visit Los Angeles as we continue to foster relationships that were renewed during my trade mission to China in December,” Villaraigosa said this week. “I am committed to strengthening our local economy by expanding Chinese trade, tourism and investment in Los Angeles and exploring ways that we can expand local business opportunities in China.”
Chinese-owned businesses in the city employ about 600 people and pay $32 million in wages, according to the mayor’s office.
Xi’s visit is largely intended to send symbolic messages to the Chinese public, said Clayton Dube, associate director of the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. It will communicate that succession is proceeding in orderly fashion and that the U.S.-China relationship is an important tie that both sides are trying to improve, he said.
An investment delegation from Chongqing, one of China’s fastest growing cities, will be looking at ways to invest in shipping infrastructure, tourism- related businesses, film and video partnerships and possibly transportation projects, Dube said.
Villaraigosa is also looking to Chinese companies for investment in regional transportation projects and a high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco.
“Yes, that’s one of the things I’d like to talk to (Xi) about and look forward to working with him,” Villaraigosa told City News Service. “What it will be is an opportunity to participate in what should be one of the most significant projects of its kind in our state’s history.” Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., said that “the biggest issues out there in terms of economic relations, is whether China begins to invest seriously in real assets in the U.S., assuming partial ownership of businesses here, not just treasuries and agency debt.”
The prospect of transportation investments becoming the first high- profile test of how Americans react to Chinese co-ownership of public assets seems “perfectly feasible,” he said.
“Foreign ownership even of toll roads has been politically difficult elsewhere in the U.S.,” Lieberthal said.
Villaraigosa said co-ownership is not the focus of talks at this point.
“They’re not looking at that as much, certainly, as they are at a rate of return,” Villaraigosa said.
Xi’s delegation includes China’s ministers of foreign affairs, education and agriculture, the vice minister of commerce, a trade representative, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, other senior government officials and embassy and consular staff.
Xi will conclude his trip Friday night by joining Villaraigosa in attending the Lakers game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. He’s scheduled to leave Friday around 10 p.m. from LAX.
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