Dispatches From China

Follow CapRadio's Ben Bradford as he covers Gov. Jerry Brown's week-long trip to China. The governor is there to strengthen ties with the country in the fight against climate change.

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Brown Talks High-Speed Rail...While Riding High-Speed Rail


MORE UPDATES: Tuesday Dispatch From China: Brown Meets With Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping

UPDATE June 5, 2017, 1:50 p.m.: “I’m the foremost promoter of high-speed rail in America.”

That’s how California Governor Jerry Brown described himself – while riding a high-speed train in China Monday.

Speaking with reporters along the 600-mile, five-hour ride from Nanjing to Beijing, Brown blamed political resistance when asked why America doesn’t have its own system.

“Many in the Republican Party have adopted anti-high-speed rail like anti-climate change and anti-birth control as key elements in their political philosophy," says Brown. "But despite all that, the high-speed rail in California is under construction. We have money and we’re spending.” 

California’s system has been plagued by legal challenges, construction delays and cost increases since voters approved it nearly a decade ago.

Brown says the California High-Speed Rail Authority is seeking a private operator to advise the state as it builds the rail system – and companies in China and several other countries have shown interest.


UPDATE June 5, 2017, 1:45 p.m.: 
California Governor Jerry Brown’s week-long trip to China continues with several days in Beijing. That’s the site of the Clean Energy Ministerial, an international conference with leaders from around the world.

After starting his trip with stops in Chengdu and Nanjing, Brown says he’s looking to those cities and their provinces to work with California – to fight climate change, and in particular, on clean energy development, such as electric vehicle batteries.

“I’m very hoping this will lead to accelerated battery development, reduction in costs, in the same way with zero-emission cars," says Brown. "That’s kind of my key objective, given what we need in California.” 

The governor wants to encourage business relationships between California and China. To that end, he met with the governors and Communist Party secretaries of the provinces that include Chengdu and Nanjing.

UPDATE June 5, 2017, 1:40 p.m.: Capital Public Radio’s Ben Bradford, who’s traveling with Brown, says he visited Chengdu and Nanjing. Brown held formal meetings with the governors and Communist Party secretaries in each province.

“Nicely appointed rooms with an equal number of seats on each side. Everything’s really orchestrated to make sure that things are exactly equal," says Bradford. "And then the governor sits in the middle with a table on one side, and across from that table – on the exact other side, so the table’s right in the middle – is the party secretary. And they have translators behind them. Very interesting – very formal.” 

Brown signed agreements in each province that call for working together to combat climate change – particularly through clean energy development. The governor also says he’s hoping Chinese companies can help invest in manufacturing batteries for zero-emission vehicles – which would help lower costs in California.

UPDATE June 5, 2017, 10:00 a.m.: Ben Bradford previously covered Brown's efforts to curb climate change. Brown and other leaders in states and cities are fighting climate change, with or without the nations. 

A month after the election of President Trump, California Governor Jerry Brown gave a defiant speech in front of thousands of earth scientists. He promised to continue the fight to curb climate change and—with U.S. actions likely to flag—even to take the place of the federal government.

He drew a cheer when he mentioned NASA satellites that track global temperatures.

060417 Jerry Brown Wang Dongming Sichuan BB P

California Governor Jerry Brown meets with Sichuan province party secretary Wang Dongming on June 4, 2017, during a week-long visit to China for climate talks. Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

UPDATE June 4, 2017, 12:36 p.m.: Governor Jerry Brown’s entrance to China was the flipside of his exit from California. He left the state with a flurry of interviews on CNN, MSNBC and PBS NewsHour, condemning President Trump’s pledge to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.
Without mentioning Trump by name in his first speech in China, Brown urged the Chinese government to lead in the U.S.’s stead.
“With President Obama gone, it’s up to (Chinese President Xi Jinping) to advance the ball, and we want to stand behind him and help make that possible,” Brown said.
The governor made the remarks during an official meeting with the leaders of Sichuan province, one of the first Chinese regions to join the Under2 Coalition, Brown’s pact between sub-national governments that agree to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re very interested in creating partnerships, mutual business investment and also promoting clean energy and other ways of reducing pollution and greenhouse gases,” Brown said. “That will require new technology and new investments, and I’m hoping that we can benefit from the science and technology and business of Sichuan.”
Sichuan has 87 million residents, more than double the population of California.
The meeting took two separate hotel conference rooms and was highly formal. Brown and Sichuan party secretary Wang Dongming sat at two chairs, separated by a small end table, with a translator behind each of them. An equal number of representatives from California and Sichuan faced each other on opposite sides of the room.
In what one reporter based in China called “amazing access,” the U.S. media outlets covering the meeting were allowed to stay for the opening and prepared remarks, and were then quickly ushered out before the remainder of the discussion. It was a small reminder of China's limits on press freedom.
After the meeting, Brown signed a friendship agreement, which is similar to a “sister city” arrangement, with Sichuan. Then, he visited pandas.

Monday, the California delegation -- which includes Brown, the chairs of the state Air Resources Board and Energy Commission, and a handful of aides -- will hold similar meetings in the province of Jiangsu, population 79 million.

June 1, 2017:
California Governor Jerry Brown heads to China Friday for a week-long trip focused on climate change. It’s the governor’s first trip back to China since he led a trade delegation in 2013 and comes after Pres. Donald Trump's announcement Thursday that he will pull out of the Paris climate accord.

CapRadio's Ben Bradford will be traveling with Brown. He spoke with Brown this week about the trip. 

Since the election of Trump, Brown has described China as “the great hope” on climate change.

"At a time when Trump is going AWOL, California wants to be right on the playing field and taking decisive action," Brown said. "And with the Chinese government representing a billion, 300 million people, that’s a terrific ally to push the ball forward on dealing with decarbonizing our future."

California already has several climate change agreements in place with Chinese regional and national governments, but Brown says the state can do more. 

"We want to get a Chinese commitment to standardize their zero-emission cars with California so that we have a vast market, and will make it easier to introduce electric cars," Brown said. 

CapRadio will have reports from Bradford throughout the week on-air and online.

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