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California trade delegation arrives in China

A group accompanying Gov. Jerry Brown is greeted with etiquette tips from the state's new trade office. (Drink tea with both hands, and remember Tibet is a sensitive topic.)

April 09, 2013|By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
  • Gov. Jerry Brown will arrive in China this week to formally open a California-China trade office.
Gov. Jerry Brown will arrive in China this week to formally open a California-China… (Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles…)

BEIJING — Present your business card with two hands. Go ahead and slurp your soup. Give gifts to clients, but by all means avoid clocks and knives.

These are among the cultural hints and etiquette tips that California's new China Trade and Investment Office offered to dozens of political and business delegates traveling here with Gov. Jerry Brown this week. The group arrived Monday, ahead of Brown, who was celebrating his 75th birthday.

The trade office will open officially later this week, when Brown and his entourage travel to Shanghai for the official ribbon cutting. The estimated $1 million it will cost to run the office each year is being raised by the Bay Area Council, a nonprofit business group that organized Brown's trip.

Monday's welcome for the delegates included an eight-page booklet containing such advice as:

• "Maybe" means no: The "Chinese seldom say no," the pamphlet says. "Instead they would say, 'It's not convenient,' or, 'We'll think about it.'" Visitors are also advised to "avoid confrontation" in their business dealings.

• Drink tea "with both hands on the cup/bowl." No dangling of dainty fingers.

• Give yourself a hand: "If you are introduced and people clap, it is considered polite to clap along."

• Among topics deemed sensitive are Tibet and Taiwan, media censorship, religion and the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square.

The delegates also received their first swag: a pin, emblazoned with the logo of the new trade office, which they are invited to wear throughout their journey. The logo is a seascape with 19th century ships, a mountain backdrop and flora.

The travelers, who each paid $10,000 to be here, are from all phases of Brown's four decades in politics. Some have known the governor since before he ran for office.

One is retired federal Judge Frank Damrell, Brown's college roommate at UC Berkeley who studied in seminary with him in the 1950s. Another is Lucie Gikovich, a press secretary during Brown's first stint as governor, who now works for a Washington lobbying firm.

Also here is Zeb Rice, managing partner of a firm that invests in green energy companies, and Brown's nephew, son of his sister Kathleen.

Allan Zaremberg, president of the state Chamber of Commerce, is along for part of the trip. Zaremberg accompanied then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on his 2005 visit to China — a trip that had about half the number of delegates Brown has brought. The group started a near-riot then as Chinese fans tried to get a glimpse of superstar Schwarzenegger.

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