San Francisco mayor’s visit to inject new impetus and play positive role in navigating complexities of China-US relations: experts

China US Photo:VCG

China US Photo:VCG

The official start of San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s visit to China by invitation commenced on Sunday, marking her inaugural trip to the country since assuming office. This visit has garnered significant attention from both sides, with Chinese experts saying its significance in signaling the positive expectations of US local governments regarding enhancing economic and trade relations with China.

Scheduled from Sunday to April 21, the mayor’s trip coincides with a critical phase in China-US relations just about a week after the visit of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to China.

Yellen brought up accusations of “overcapacity” and other economic and trade issues, leaving mixed reactions in China over her allegations.

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-US relations, experts said.

Breed is arriving in Hong Kong on Sunday and will immediately proceed to Shenzhen that evening. She is scheduled to depart from Shanghai on April 21 and arrive back in San Francisco on the same day due to the time change, the mayor’s office confirmed to the Global Times in a statement.

The mayor’s visit is intended to bolster diplomatic relations, stimulate economic growth and deepen cultural ties in China, the Global Times learned.

While her full itinerary has not been finalized, she plans to visit Shenzhen, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, where she will celebrate the 45th anniversary of San Francisco and Shanghai as Sister Cities, the mayor’s office said. 

This will also be part of her economic cultivation trip with a delegation from San Francisco.

Speaking about the trip, Breed expressed in the statement her honor to be invited by the Chinese side to travel to China and extended her expectations of meeting with leaders in business, innovation and government to cultivate economic opportunities and strengthen ties between San Francisco and cities across the region during the visit.

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.

Regional interactions have picked up despite disruptions due to the tensions between China and the US in recent years, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, He Weiwen, a senior fellow from the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Sunday, adding that he expects the frequency of regional interactions to recover to the previous level.

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, He said.

There are several areas where US cities like San Francisco can expand their cooperation with China. On the one hand, the two sides can build up closer cooperation in internet technology and agricultural products and technology where both sides are highly complementary. On the other hand, San Francisco can gain opportunities from China’s consumption market. 

Chinese cities can also adopt some expertise and experience from the US city when it comes to healthcare in better tackling the aging population, He said.

As long as there is no cold war mentality in normal business relations, fruitful cooperation is foreseeable, the expert said.

Breed’s visit comes just a week after Yellen’s visit, during which the latter sent a mixed message that further complicated China-US relations, experts said, referring to the “production overcapacity” issue.

The complexity of bilateral relations comes as Washington always puts its politically driven motivations ahead of normal economic and trade cooperation, a trend that has intensified ahead of the US elections, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

In these circumstances, regional cooperation should play an increasingly important role in bilateral relations, the expert said. The mayor’s visit is iconic and more regional interactions are expected to take place, charting a good course for the stability of the world’s two major economies, Gao said.