California Governor Gavin Newsom had a surprise meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday, and was reportedly greeted warmly after meeting with several other senior Chinese officials.
Newsom is playing diplomat in China this week, ostensibly to talk about climate change and subnational cooperation between California and China on climate issues. And as the Associated Press reports, Newsom was unexpectedly given an audience with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he discussed climate issues as well as China's exports of fentanyl to the U.S.
The 45-minute meeting took place in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, and as the Chronicle reports, American reporters were barred from covering the meeting — though Newsom addressed reporters afterward. He called the fentanyl discussion "remarkably positive."
"We talked about precursor chemicals, we talked about the importance of the issue and how it’s become a leading cause of death in the United States," Newsom said.
"The president was rather explicit about the desire to be even more specific in terms of what is needed, in terms of calling out and identifying where these chemicals are going," Newsom added, according to Politico.
Newsom said he had specifically brought up the impact fentanyl has had in his hometown of San Francisco, and reportedly Xi spoke fondly of visiting San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Chinese officials have not confirmed whether Xi himself will attend the APEC summit here in three weeks, but Newsom reportedly encouraged him to attend. The Biden administration is hopeful that Xi and President Biden will have a chance to meet in San Francisco as well.
Xi said in a statement to Newsom, according to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, "I hope your visit will enhance mutual understanding between the two sides and play a positive role in expanding cooperation between China and California and promoting the healthy and stable development of Sino-U.S. relations.”
The AP has a number of these similar statements from Chinese officials regarding Newsom's visit.
Vice President Han Zheng reportedly greeted Newsom with a "wide smile," calling him "old friend."
"The China-U.S. relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, and the sub-national cooperation is an indispensable part to facilitate the sound and steady growth of China-U.S. relations," Han reportedly told Newsom. “I’m sure your weeklong trip will inject positive energy to the development of the China-U.S. relationship.”
Politico notes that Newsom's welcome by Chinese officials is "the latest sign of thawing U.S-China relations amid rising geopolitical conflicts."
Per the Chronicle, Newsom said that his "biggest fear" is that the US and China become "isolated from each other."
When asked whether he discussed human rights issues with Xi, Newsom said he did not, however he did discuss human rights with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a separate meeting. And Newsom said he brought up the wrongful imprisonment of California resident David Lin, who the United States government says is wrongfully imprisoned in China.
Lin, a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, has been jailed in China since 2006 following an arrest over illegal religious propaganda. China has said that Lin's sentence has been reduced, and that he will be freed in 2030.
Newsom, who is the third governor of California to visit China in recent decades, began his trip Monday in Hong Kong. He is also scheduled to visit Shenzhen, Shanghai, and the provinces of Guangdong and Jiangsu.
Photo via the Governor's Office