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San Marino is part of Chinese delegation's business tour

Chinese officials and business leaders from the affluent coastal county of Shaoxing visit the San Gabriel Valley city, which because of its large Asian population has become an attractive spot for potential Chinese investment.

May 29, 2011|By Ching-Ching Ni, Los Angeles Times
  • Jiashun He, the Communist Party secretary of China's Shaoxing County, speaks with Chinese media outside San Marino City Hall. Jiashun headed a delegation of Chinese officials and businesses in a whirlwind visit to the San Gabriel Valley city, which because of its large Asian population is an attractive spot for potential Chinese investment.
Jiashun He, the Communist Party secretary of China's Shaoxing County,… (Ricardo DeAratanha, Los…)

For years, the Chinese worked hard to lure deep-pocketed American investors. Now they're the ones investing here, looking for bargains in the sluggish U.S. economy.

Last week, the city of San Marino got a taste of what it's like to play host.

"America can invest in China, so Chinese can invest in America. It's a win-win situation," said Yongli Zhou, chief executive of Zhejiang Yongli Industry Group, a large investment, manufacturing and textiles company, and one of about a dozen Chinese officials and business leaders visiting San Marino.

The visitors, all from the wealthy coastal county of Shaoxing, stopped in the city on a jam-packed, one-day tour of the Los Angeles area.

Most Americans have probably never heard of Shaoxing, although quite a few of the clothes they wear probably come from there. It is home to the world's largest textiles trading center, accounting for one quarter of the global textiles trade.

So why has Jiashun He, the Communist Party secretary of this county of 1.4 million people, chosen to visit San Marino, population 15,300?

"A lot of Chinese people love it here. They are very successful in America," Jiashun said. "We want to work with them and learn from them."

San Marino is now more than half Asian and 48% Chinese American, said Mayor Allan K. Yung, who moved there in 1975 when Asians made up only about 10% of the population. That makes the city — and the San Gabriel Valley in general — an attractive spot for potential Chinese investment.

According to a new study by the Asia Society, Chinese investment in the U.S. is soaring, pumping in more than $5 billion in 2010 alone, and Chinese businesses already operate in at least 35 states.

The Shaoxing delegation is interested in hotels, large commercial retail spaces, downtown office buildings and solar energy, medical and high-tech projects, said Tiffany Xu, managing director of Sky Vision Investment Group, the San Marino-based company that organized the visit.

"A lot of people used to invest in Chinese real estate. Then the government tightened the rules, and there is inflation," Xu said. "So everybody is looking for opportunities elsewhere, and everything in America seems relatively cheap now."

With so much to do and so little time, the visitors zoomed through early morning meetings before heading to what they thought would be a tour of San Marino City Hall. It turned out to be closed Fridays, but no matter. They took some pictures outside and exchanged gifts with the mayor and other local dignitaries. (Among the offerings from the Chinese: a scroll and pearls.) Then they were off — to lunch in Santa Monica, followed by a Beverly Hills shopping spree.

"No, they did not tour our beautiful homes," Yung said. "They'd rather see Rodeo Drive. It's more exciting."

chingching.ni@latimes.com

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