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In China, Jerry Brown forced to cope with formalities

April 10, 2013|By Anthony York
  • Gov. Jerry Brown dines with delegates at the China Club in Beijing.
Gov. Jerry Brown dines with delegates at the China Club in Beijing. (Anthony York / Los Angeles…)

BEIJING -- Staff entourages and scores of high-level security. Police escorts and long motorcades of dark sedans.

This is not how Jerry Brown typically rolls.

But those are among the governor's new realities this week as he moves from boardrooms to ballrooms amid the government meetings, signing ceremonies and formal banquets that will make up his swing through China.

The formal nature of the official state visit is something of an anathema to the governor's trademark intellectual populism. Brown's improvisational style has been curbed by carefully worded statements. A governor who has been known to eat food from other people's plates is slated to sit through a handful of lavish multi-course banquets, complete with their own sets of cultural rituals.

The formalities began early Wednesday as Brown met with China's minister of commerce, Gao Hucheng. Seated at a long conference table surrounded by top aides and untouched mugs of green tea, the two exchanged pleasantries and pledged deeper economic ties between China and California.

From there, his police-led motorcade made its way through the streets of Beijing to the Hunan Hotel, where in an ornate ballroom, Brown and six other regional Chinese leaders signed a memorandum also aimed at promoting future partnerships.

These types of non-binding memoranda are precisely the kind of thing Brown typically dismisses back home. State lawmakers have seen dozens of bills meet with the governor's veto pen, dismissed with curt messages about their non-binding and mostly ceremonial nature.

But this is different, Brown's aides say. These agreements are seen as significant in China, and lay the groundwork for what Brown hopes will be scores of new business deals in the years to come.

A lunchtime gathering at the tony Peninsula Hotel offered a brief respite. At a luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, in a room full of U.S. business people, Brown was at ease. He kept the crowd laughing with cracks about the state's credit rating, the city of San Francisco and California's propensity for lawsuits.

The governor made light of complaints about state regulations dating back to his first stint as governor that persisted through the 1980s and '90s when the state had Republican executives.

"Some people say I screwed things up so much 20 years of Republicans still couldn't fix it."

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anthony.york@latimes.com

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