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China's vice president set for two-day visit to Los Angeles

February 9, 2012 |  5:50 pm

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with U.S. and Chinese business leaders at the Beijing Hotel in Beijing last year. Credit: Lintao Zhang / AP

China’s vice president and the odds-on favorite to become the country’s next president, Xi Jinping, will visit Los Angeles for two days next week on a trip to the United States.

Xi, who trained as a chemical engineer and lawyer, rose through the ranks of the Communist Party and is known as a business-friendly leader. In Los Angeles, he will visit the port, dine at a banquet with the local Chinese community and attend an economic forum, as well as meet with U.S. officials, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Gov. Jerry Brown and Vice President Joe Biden. He may also visit a business and a school where students study Mandarin.

And, if he can fit it in before he leaves, he may watch the Lakers play the Phoenix Suns. Professional basketball and Kobe Bryant in particular are popular in China.

The Chinese vice president is also certain to draw protesters. The Tibetan Assn. of Northern California is arranging for two buses to bring activists to the city from the Bay Area.

Villaraigosa, who met with Xi on his December trip to China, will greet him at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday and host a luncheon on Friday. The mayor’s office said Villaraigosa plans to sign new agreements with Chinese officials, including one to open a new LA Inc. tourism office in Chongqing. LA Inc. already has a Beijing office.

Villaraigosa also plans to welcome a new Chinese company to L.A., according to his office, which declined to provide details. The mayor’s administration takes credit for persuading Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD to set up its North American headquarters in the city.

The mayor’s office said Xi’s delegation will include China’s ministers of foreign affairs, education and agriculture, the vice minister of commerce, the trade representative, the ambassador to the United States and other senior government officials, as well as embassy and consular staff.

Villaraigosa also plans to host a delegation of Chinese mayors in May.

“I am honored that Vice President Xi Jinping accepted my invitation to visit Los Angeles,” Villaraigosa said in a statement released Thursday. “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.”

The mayor’s office said Chinese businesses are responsible for 600 jobs in Los Angeles and $32 million in wages. China Shipping is doubling the size of its terminal at the port with new wharf space that will be able to handle 1.5 million containers. A number of new direct flights to China have been added at LAX. Last year, 338,000 tourists from China visited the city.

Fan Jin, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, said Xi was the first national leader to visit Los Angeles in 13 years. “It’s big, it’s very important, and it’s playing a growing role in bilateral relations. This is the main reason,” she said, explaining the L.A. stop.

Xi will also visit Washington, D.C., and Muscatine and Des Moines, Iowa, where he will attend the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium. China is the No. 1 consumer of U.S. farm products. Xi visited Muscatine in 1985 when he was a provincial party official.



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-- John Hoeffel at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with U.S. and Chinese business leaders at the Beijing Hotel in Beijing last year. Credit: Lintao Zhang / AP