San Francisco Mayor London Breed Visits China, Offering ‘Sincere and Pragmatic Cooperation’

 Much like when California’s far-left Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) made a politically useful visit to China in October, Chinese state media on Sunday fawned over visiting San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D).

“While Washington is taking a politically motivated hawkish stance on China to reiterate its global hegemony, Breed’s visit may set a good example of how sincere and pragmatic cooperation can take place in China-U.S. relations,” gushed China’s state-run Global Times.

Breed’s first stop was in Hong Kong, where China shocked the world by brutally suppressing the massive 2019 pro-democracy protests and imposing an authoritarian “national security law” that effectively criminalizes all dissent from the Communist Party.

Hong Kong’s national security law became even more oppressive this year, prompting fresh outcries from global human rights advocates. Chinese Communist officials dismissed these objections as the buzzing of “mantises and flies” while stepping up reprisals against foreign media that provide critical coverage of Hong Kong issues.

Having Mayor Breed breeze through Hong Kong without dwelling on any of these issues was a propaganda coup for China, a much-needed jolt of normalization for a very abnormal situation. The Global Times applauded Breed for doing her part to “bolster diplomatic relations, stimulate economic growth, and deepen cultural ties in China.” 

As with Newsom, the Chinese Communists touted Breed as a reasonable alternative to the supposedly intractable and irrational U.S. federal government. The Global Times even threw in a callback to Newsom’s trip:

Building on the success of APEC, which took place in San Francisco last November, Breed said that “it is critical that we continue to build on that momentum to strengthen San Francisco’s international partnerships and maximize the economic and business opportunities that are so valuable for San Francisco’s future.”

Regional interactions between China and the US have been positive. For example, the weeklong visit of California Governor Gavin Newsom to China last October, with his focus on climate change and bilateral economic development, brought more benefits to the two peoples and injected more positive energy into China-US relations.

Chinese experts shared positive expectations about Breed’s visit, saying that the tour reflects close interaction between China and the US at the regional level that has lasted for decades, and Breed’s visit is sending another positive and encouraging message amid the current complexity of China-US economic and trade relations.

APEC is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, whose Leader’s Week meeting was held in San Francisco last November. Chinese dictator Xi Jinping attended the meeting, rubbed elbows with top American business leaders, and met with President Joe Biden at the event in San Francisco. Breed was a guest at Xi’s welcome dinner and he invited her to visit China in return.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Gavin Newsom, governor of the U.S. state of California, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 25, 2023. (Huang Jingwen/Xinhua via Getty Images)

“Politicians in San Francisco do not share the cold war or hegemonic mentality of those in Washington, and therefore, there is always a positive stance on China, which makes bilateral cooperation much smoother and easier,” sniffed Center for China and Globalization senior fellow He Weiwen.

The Global Times was eager to contrast Breed’s junket with last week’s visit by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. 

Yellen had some tough talk for the Chinese about flooding U.S. markets with cheap exports that would damage American industries, although she was vague about exactly what steps the Biden administration is prepared to take. The Global Times dismissed her warnings as pure political theater, preferring instead to focus on Breed’s “iconic” visit and the message of “stability” she sent.

Breed told China’s state-run Xinhua news service that she sees San Francisco as America’s “gateway to Asia,” and its Chinese community as a bridge to the People’s Republic of China. She said she wants to build a stronger relationship between the San Francisco tech community and its counterparts in China:

Breed believes that the San Francisco Bay Area and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area can strengthen communication and mutual learning in the future, especially in the field of science and technology.

Noting that artificial intelligence is a huge industry in San Francisco, and China is leading the way in some of the most significant technologies, Breed voiced hope that the two sides will explore more opportunities to learn from each other and grow together in this regard.

“I was born and raised in San Francisco. What I appreciate about San Francisco is we are a global city, and a cross-cultural city,” she said. “When I go to Chinatown, I always see somebody. I know somebody.”

China - Chinese Premier Li Qiang, right, shakes hands with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, left, during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Friday, July 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

Chinese Premier Li Qiang shakes hands with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, left, (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

The San Francisco Examiner reported on Saturday that the primary goal of Breed’s “whirlwind tour” of Hong Kong, Beijing, and China’s tech and trade hubs was to bring more Chinese investments to San Francisco, especially the “struggling downtown” area.

One of Breed’s ideas is persuading China’s Fudan University to build a satellite campus in downtown San Francisco. She previously announced an effort to open satellite campuses for historically black universities in the downtown area, an initiative she calls “Black 2 San Francisco.”

Breed also wants to increase Chinese tourism to her city, to which end she plans to meet with executives from air carriers Air China, Hainan Airlines, and Shenzhen Airlines to ask for more direct flights. Tourism in San Francisco has never quite recovered from the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, but China remains the leading source of foreign tourism spending.

“For Breed, the trip could also have a political benefit if it elevates her profile among San Francisco voters of Chinese descent. Asian American voters were important to Breed’s election six years ago, but a recent Chronicle poll found they’re deeply displeased with her job performance,” the San Francisco Chronicle observed on the eve of her departure.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed Visits China, Offering ‘Sincere and Pragmatic Cooperation’ San Francisco Mayor London Breed Visits China, Offering ‘Sincere and Pragmatic Cooperation’ Reviewed by Your Destination on April 15, 2024 Rating: 5

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