China

August 19, 2013

Alibaba buys into California eCommerce company

Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba has continued its relationship with Yahoo and gained another foothold in California with its recent investment in ShopRunner, run by former Yahoo Chief Executive Scott Thompson, Shoprunner is an ecommerce firm based in San Francisco with existing relationships with many major brand names. They are growing fast with orders in 2012 increased two and a half times more than in 2011.

Alibaba, which is planning for an IPO later this year is reportedly paying $75 million for a minority stake in ShopRunner, While Mr. Thompson is no longer at the company, Yahoo owns almost a quarter of Alibaba so some relationship apparently persisted.

This is said to be one of many purchases Alibaba is making in advance of their IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, that is expected value the firm at $60-$100 billion. The move has not been without controversy. A Hong Kong journalist recently quit her job in a controversy over disputed remarks that Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, is said to have made in support of Beijing’s violent crackdown on Tienanmen Square protesters in 1989. Mr. Ma denies he said that but the newspaper is sticking to the story and it apparently caused quite a stir in Hong Kong.

Alibaba began in 1999 as a business-to-business portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. It has since become the biggest eCommerce system in the world, with with sales more then Amazon and eBay combined. The planned IPO will likely secure its position as a global powerhouse in eCommerce for many years to come.

Filed under China, Internet, Mergers and Acquisitions by

August 2, 2013

China hasn’t paid Hollywood studios since last year

California movie studios haven’t been paid for movies shown in China since late last year, according to an exclusive report by The Hollywood Reporter. This situation only gained wide attention recently because because China will likely become the largest moviegoing market in the world before too long and the studios have been quiet about it because they want to preserve the relationship

The dispute apparently centers on a new two percent value-added tax that the Chinese want the studios to pay. For their part, the studios claim that the additional payment would violate a World Trade Organization agreement that was made just last year between the U.S. and Chinese goverments.

According to the Hollywood Reporter estimates: Warner Brothers is owned about $31 million for Man of Steel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Jack the Giant Slayer; Sony is due about $23 million for Skyfall and After Earth ; Paramount would be owed roughly $30 million for Into Darkness, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jack Reacher; Disney’s Iron Man 3 made more than $121 million in China, which would mean a return of more than $30 million for the studio, while Oz the Great and Powerful would mean about $5 million in payments.

Several other movies are in he middle of their run, and some studios are still owed money for 2012 titles as well. For example, Fox hasn’t received payment for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, a check that’s expected to earn about $23 million.

Movies are, of course, one of California’s primary exports, and in a country where bootlegging and copyright infringement is commonplace, it is difficult to understand China’s justification for withholding payments. If the situation was reversed, and California suddenly decided to stop payments for Chinese manufactured goods, it is hard to imagine that it would be considered acceptable by the Chinese. This seems like a case where China is using its market size leverage to an unfair advantage, and it is certainly something trade officials and policy makers should keep an eye on.

Filed under China, Hollywood, Media and Entertainment by

July 25, 2013

California shark fin ban now in effect

California’s law that prohibits the sale, possession, trade, or distribution of shark fins went into full effect on the first of this month ending the Chinese custom of serving shark fin soup in California restaurants.

The legislation went into effect in January, but had exemptions allowing the sale of previously obtained shark fins until the end of June. Anyone now caught violating the law could face a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

the law caused a controversy between environmentalists, concerned about the declining shark population and some Chinese-Americans, who want to continue to honor this Chinese tradition. The soup is an expensive delicacy, has been popular in China since the Ming Dynasty, and is often served during weddings, banquets and other Asian ceremonies.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, however, it is thought that close to 73 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Many, are obtained by the process of finning – slicing the fins from live sharks and throwing the disabled animals back into the ocean, where they drown. The market for shark meat is nowhere as great as for the fins, the Times reported, and demand for the fins has reduced some shark populations to 10% of historical levels.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, China, Environment and Climate by

July 24, 2013

California Food and Agriculture Head to lead Trade Mission to Vietnam and China.

State food and agriculture secretary Karen Ross will lead a trade delegation to China and Vietnam in September, according to a press release issued by the California Deparment of Food and Agriculture. She will be leading an agricultural trade delegation to China and Vietnam from September 16-21, 2013, as part of the California State Trade and Export Promotion program.

This mission will visit Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City with the goal of providing export business opportunities for California farmers, ranchers and food processors. The new California-China Trade and Investment Office in Shanghai, opened by Governor Brown during his trade mission, will help coordinate this mission by facilitating links between California businesses and Chinese counterparts who have shown interests in purchasing California products.

Funding for this trade mission will come from a grant administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Companies interested in participating in the trade mission should contact the Fresno Center for International Trade Development at (559) 324-6401or visit www.fresnocitd.org, The full press release can be read at this link:

http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/egov/Press_Releases/Press_Release.asp?PRnum=13-019

Filed under Agriculture and Food, China, Vietnam by

October 22, 2012

China investment in California predicted to soar

China’s direct foreign investment in developing economies is on the increase, and California could be uniquely situated to benefit from this, according to a report by Rhodium Group, a New York based economic think tank.

Already, about $1.3 billion of Chinese money has flowed into the California from 2000 to 2011, and this amount to increase to between $10 billion and $60 billion by the year 2020. “Just as Chinese exports exploded in the last decade—from $250 billion in 2000 to nearly $2 trillion by 2011—China’s OFDI is poised to skyrocket in the years ahead”, according to the report.

It went on to conclude. “California, with its long history with China, the most sizable Chinese American population in the country, and more inward investment deals from China than any other state, is in a position to lead the nation in attracting Chinese investment in the decade to come”. The full report can be downloaded from a link on this page:

http://rhgroup.net/reports/chinese-direct-investment-in-california

Filed under California Economy, China, Economic Development by

March 31, 2011

Stanford to open center in China

As reported in the San Jose Business Journal, Sanford University plans an early 2012 opening for a center in Beijing that will serve as a headquarters for faculty and students conducting research in China and as an impetus for more collaboration between Asian and American scholars. The $5 million project will be paid for entirely from gifts made to the Stanford.

The Stanford Center at Peking University will be an architectural combination of east and west, according to university officials. A presentation on the new facility by Coit Blacker, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford, is scheduled Thursday for members of the university’s Faculty Senate.
Seven university departments — including the School of Medicine’s Asian Liver Center, the Bing Overseas Studies Program and the Center for Sustainable Development and Global Competitiveness — have committed to establishing a presence at the new center.

“China’s position as a global economic leader means that the university should be at the forefront of helping our students and faculty better understand the country’s policies, culture and views while at the same time forging intellectual ties with its brightest and most important thinkers,” Stanford President John Hennessy said in a statement.

Read more

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March 29, 2011

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Takes Export Tour to Los Angeles

From the U.S. Department of Commerce blog:

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to Los Angeles, Calif., today for the second stop of the New Markets, New Jobs small business outreach tour.  Joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and USC Marshall School of Business Dean James G. Ellis, Locke discussed the importance of exports to America’s economic recovery and job creation, and the resources that the government is providing to connect local small- and medium-sized businesses with foreign buyers, especially those from the Asia-Pacific markets, in order to help them sell more overseas and hire more at home.  

Announced on the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, New Markets, New Jobs is a year-long, interagency, multi-city outreach campaign designed to proactively bring government services to businesses across the country that are interested in exporting.  The tour was launched in Minneapolis in February, and will continue on to New Orleans, Louisiana in April and Wilmington, Delaware in May.

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April 7, 2010

Will the Chinese again build our railroads?

That is the gist of an article in today’s New York Times – that nearly 150 years after American railroad companies imported thousands of Chinese laborers to build rail lines across the West, China may once again to play a role in American rail construction. This time, however, they will have a much different role: supplying the technology and engineers to build high-speed rail lines.

The Chinese government has signed cooperation agreements with the state of California and General Electric to help build such lines. The agreements, both of which are preliminary, show China’s desire to become a big exporter and licenser of bullet trains traveling 350 kilometers, or about 215 miles, an hour, an environmentally friendly technology in which China has raced past the United States in the past few years.

“We are the most advanced in many fields, and we are willing to share with the United States,” said Zheng Jian, the chief planner and director of high-speed rail at the Chinese Railroad Ministry.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has closely followed progress in the discussions and hopes to return to China this year for talks with rail ministry officials, said David Crane, the governor’s special adviser for jobs and economic growth and a board member for the California High Speed Rail Authority. China is offering not just to build a railroad in California but to help finance its construction, and Chinese officials have already been shuttling from Beijing to Sacramento to make presentations, Mr. Crane said by telephone.

China is not the only country interested in selling high-speed rail equipment to the United States. Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and Italy have also approached the state of California.

The state’s high-speed rail authority has made no decisions on whose technology to choose. But Mr. Crane said that there were no apparent weaknesses in the Chinese offer and that Mr. Schwarzenegger particularly wanted to visit China this year for high-speed rail discussions.

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January 24, 2010

Avatar pulled from most theaters in China

The hit movie “Avatar” directed by James Cameron of Fullerton, and distributed by 20th Century Fox, of Los Angeles, is being pulled from most theaters in China, apparently because it is so successful.  As reported in the Los Angeles Times, The movie is no longer being allowed in 2D theaters even though is already the most successful movie of all time in China, having grossed a record $76 million.  The Chinese government only allows 20 foreign movies per year to be shown in China’s theaters. “Avatar,” which opened worldwide in mid-December, was held in Chinese theaters until January because the 2009 quota had already been filled.  The movie is already being widely pirated, with copies available in Beijing’s bootleg DVD stores. 

It seems incredibly strange that the Chinese government should be able to pull one of our most successful products just because it is successful, without any repercussions at all from our government.  Should the U.S. now stop the sale of some manufactured goods from China, as soon as they become successful?

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January 18, 2010

China’s Alibaba attacks Yahoo for Google Support

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.  The Alibaba group – owners of the Chinese trade portal Alibaba has strongly criticized Yahoo – its largest shareholder, for siding with Google after a cyber attack on that company.  

As reported in the New York Times, a spokesman for Alibaba, said executives at the company were “angry” because Yahoo appeared to follow Google in suggesting the Chinese government was behind the cyberattacks.  They issued a statement saying that Yahoo was “reckless” in supporting Google because they believed there was a lack of evidence that the attacks were supported by the Chinese government. 

Yahoo is one of the companies that was targeted in the attacks but the company declined to confirm that it was a victim. “The people with knowledge of the situation said that Google contacted Yahoo about the attacks before it publicized them. Google executives were dismayed that other companies were unwilling to publicly acknowledge the attacks, and they were particularly frustrated by Yahoo’s silence” the Times reported. 

Yahoo paid Alibaba $1 billion in 2005 and gave Alibaba control of Yahoo China in exchange for a 40 percent stake in the Chinese company. Yahoo’s investment in Alibaba has paid off in a big way for that company. Alibaba.com, a unit of Alibaba, went public in 2007 with a huge stock offering in Hong Kong and is now valued at $12.5 billion.  Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba is a celebrity in China because of his success in forcing California’s Ebay to leave the Chinese market, and for taking over Yahoo’s China operations, as part of their billion dollar investment in his company. 

This was a huge amount of capital from a California company that was used to make Alibaba fantastically successful. Now that company is turning on very the people who helped it become what it is.  Is this a simple case of “sucking up” to the Chinese authorities?  Jack Ma is said to be famous for that, and some people even believe he is now milking the resources out of Yahoo so it eventually fails in that country. 

In any event, a consensus seems to be forming that this is a free trade issue.  If the Chinese government blocks Google or other American Internet firms – or forces them to leave that country, the the American Goverment should take the same action with Chinese Internet firms – and it seems like a good place to start would be Alibaba.

Filed under China, Information Technology, Internet, Opinion by

January 16, 2010

China says Google censorship will not affect trade – but should it?

China has unilaterally declared that their depute with Google over censorship and strong evidence of government sponsored hacking will not affect U.S. Trade relations, but do they get to make that call?  

“Any decision made by Google will not affect Sino-U.S. trade and economic relations, as the two sides have many ways to communicate and negotiate with each other,” Chinese government spokesman Yao Jian told a news briefing in Beijing.

Well of course the two sides have many ways to communicate with each other – that is not the point. If one party to a trade agreement censors and blocks the content of the other party, then of course it should it should be a trade issue.  In the tit for tat world of diplomacy, if they block the content from one of our companies, then shouldn’t we block one of theirs?

California buys a huge amount of Chinese imports, but they don’t by nearly as many of our exports. One of our strongest industries in the movie industry – but only 20 foreign films are even allowed to be shown in that country each year. The rest of the movies we produce here are simply pirated (i.e. stolen) there, Can you imagine if we said to China, “we will only allow the products from 20 of your manufacturers in our country each year”. Now they are blocking, and possibly even attacking, one of California’s other great industries – Internet services.

It is not at all disrespectful to China to expect our government to respond to blocking and censorship with reciprocal actions that affect Chinese companies. That is how a mature trade relationship works. Mr. Yao Jian has it wrong. This is exactly the kind of thing that should affect trade and economic relations – this is a trade issue.

UPDATE: Evidence that the Obama Administration may be looking at these blocking and censorship issues from a more sensible “fair trade” perspective, might be found in a speech Secretary of State Clinton plans to give on the issue on Thursday. From a column by Andrew Ross in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

“The Internet is integral to the international trading system,” said Ed Black, CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, who is scheduled to meet with Clinton on the matter this week. “China cannot limit the free flow of information and still comply with its international trade obligations.” “You can’t lecture the Chinese on human rights,” said another industry executive. “You won’t get anywhere with that. So, it’s best to treat it as a trade issue.”

Should the administration go that route, it will enlarge the can of U.S.-China worms already growing around the latter’s increasingly protectionist economic policies. “Greater control of the Internet is part of a wholesale tightening up of the Chinese economy,” said an executive with a high-tech trade organization that is also due to meet with Clinton. “It’s about protecting domestic industries and pushing indigenous innovation. But they’re doing it in blatantly discriminatory, brazenly unfair ways.”

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January 13, 2010

Yahoo sides with Google in China showdown

Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale has issued a statement supporting its cross town rival Google in their dispute with the government of China.  Google apparently believes the Chinese government or its spy agencies were responsible for an attack on its technical infrastructure, which targeted the accounts of human rights activists.  Yahoo issued the following statement:

“We condemn any attempts to infiltrate company networks to obtain user information.  We stand aligned with Google that these kinds of attacks are deeply disturbing and strongly believe that the violation of user privacy is something that we as Internet pioneers must all oppose.”

The issue is sensitive for Yahoo because they provided information from their servers to the Chinese government that resulted in long prison terms for two Chinese journalists.  Yahoo is much more entrenched in China however.  They sold their Internet operations to Alibaba – a Chinese trade portal operator, but retained a 39 percent stake in that company.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Yahoo spokeswoman Nina Blackwell declined on  to say whether its solidarity with Google would cause the company to sell its Alibaba holdings.

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January 12, 2010

Is Google’s relationship with China turning sour?

Google Inc. will stop censoring its search results in China and may pull out of the country after experiencing an attack on the email accounts of human rights activists, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Google disclosed in a blog post that it had detected a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China.” Further investigation revealed that “a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists,” Google said in the post written by Chief Legal Officer David Drummond.

Google did not specifically accuse the Chinese government. But the company added that it is “no longer willing to continue censoring our results” on its Chinese search engine, as the government requires. Google says the decision could force it to shut down its Chinese site and its offices in the country.

It’s unclear how much of a blow to its business Google would suffer by pulling out of China. The country has the world’s largest population of Internet users but research firm Analysys International said last year that Baidu.com handled 62 percent of Web searches in China compared with 29 percent for Google.

Update, according to the New York TimesGoogle linked its decision to sophisticated cyberattacks on its computer systems that it suspected originated in China :

Those attacks, which Google said took place last week, were directed at some 34 companies or entities, most of them in Silicon Valley, California, according to people with knowledge of Google’s investigation into the matter. The attackers may have succeeded in penetrating elaborate computer security systems and obtaining crucial corporate data and software source codes, though Google said it did not itself suffer losses of that kind.

While the scope of the hacking and the motivations and identities of the hackers remained uncertain, Google’s response amounted to an unambiguous repudiation of its own five-year courtship of the vast China market, which most major multinational companies consider crucial to their growth prospects. It is also likely to enrage the Chinese authorities, who deny that they censor the Internet and are accustomed to having major foreign companies adapt their practices to Chinese norms.

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January 11, 2010

California company signs huge deal for solar power plants in China

Pasadena-based eSolar Inc. has signed a deal with a Chinese electric equipment manufacturer to build solar thermal power plants throughout China.  The agreement between eSolar and China Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. calls for eSolar to provide the technology and information to build solar farms with a capacity totaling 2,000 megawatts over the next decade.  The first plant will have a 92 megawatts capacity and will be built in 2010 in the Mongolian desert in northern Chinanorthern China at the Yulin Alternative Energy Park.  Plans are for the solar thermal power plants to be co-located with biomass facilities, the companies said in a press release.

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March 26, 2009

Yasheng Group seeking stock exchange listing

Agricultural holding company Yasheng Group reported a $76 million profit for 2008 as part of its goal to be listed on a major U.S. stock exchange, according to a report in the San Francisco Business Times. Yasheng Group is a Redwood City holding company focused on agriculture in China. It has about 15,000 workers. It owns seven agricultural businesses in China that grow products such as onions, potatoes, apples, alfalfa, flax, beets, wheat, apricots, sunflowers, beer barley and cumin. As part of its move towards a major stockmarket listing, Yasheng published its financial results for 2006 and 2007 in January. More on Yasheng Group seeking stock exchange listing

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March 24, 2009

China has blocked Youtube

China has blocked the video-sharing Web site YouTube but has not offered any reason or explanation for the ban. Mountain View-based Google, which owns YouTube, said it began noticing a decline in traffic from China about noon Monday.  By early Wednesday, site users insider China continued to encounter an error message: “Network Timeout. The server at youtube.com is taking too long to respond.” “We do not know the reason for the blockage and we are working as quickly as possible to restore access to our users,” said Scott Rubin, a spokesman for Google. It’s not the first time users in China have been unable to access the site. In March 2008, China blocked YouTube during riots in Tibet.

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November 23, 2008

Silicon Valley Engineers Sentenced For Economic Espionage

Two Engineers from China have been sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to economic espionage against the United States. The two men – Fei Ye, a citizen of the U.S., and Ming Zhong, a permanent U.S. resident – were facing a maximum of 30 years in prison after confessing to stealing microprocessor designs from their Silicon Valley employers in 2006. They had planned to smuggle the designs to China to launch a government-sponsored startup company there. Their guilty pleas were the first convictions for the most serious crime under the 1996 Economic Espionage Act. Prosecutors asked for a lenient sentence because the men cooperated with investigators – both apologized in court.

Unlike traditional industrial espionage economic espionage means that someone acted to benefit a foreign government and is a more serious crime. Only a few economic espionage cases have been resulted in convictions, mostlybecause it’s difficult to prove a person was acting to benefit a foreign nation. The case against Ye and Zhong began seven years ago, when they were arrested at San Francisco International Airport while attempting to board a flight to China. Their luggage was allegedly full of sensitive documents on chip designs taken illegally from four Silicon Valley tech firms who had employed the engineers. The companies include NEC Electronics Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Transmeta Corp. and Trident Microsystems Inc. Both had worked at Transmeta and Trident, while Ye had also worked at Sun and NEC. Other documents seized by authorities allegedly demonstrate the engineers were attempting to solicit money from Chinese government agencies to fund a startup firm.

Prosecutors say the documents showed that Ye and Zhong were promoting the startup as something that would elevate China’s chip-making capabilities, however, the documents do not confirm the Chinese government was aware that the chip designs were stolen.

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October 10, 2008

HP to build new PC manufacturing plant in China

Hewlett-Packard Co. has announced plans for an advanced manufacturing complex in West China.   According to a report in Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal, Palo Alto-based HP plans a 20,000-square-meter facility in Chongqing where it will make notebook and desktop PCs for customers.  Manufacturing operations are expected to begin in 2010. When in full operation, the HP-managed plant is expected to have the capacity to meet market demand in Chongqing as well as other parts of China across government, public and retail sectors. 

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May 10, 2008

Long Beach customs agents seize 18,560 pairs of fake shoes

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered 18,560 pairs of fake Nike sneakers inside two shipping containers that arrived from China, Associated Press has reported. The ship’s manifest listed the containers as holding drainage pipeline fittings, but when officers at the Port of Long Beach opened them they found the shoes instead. “The average consumer who walks into a store I think would be fooled by them,” said Bonnie Lemert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting port director for the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport. So far this year, the customs agency has seized at least eight containers of footwear, mostly the Nike brand, said the federal agency’s spokesman Mike Fleming. Last year, agents seized $20.6 million dollars of counterfeit merchandise, and 80 percent of the fakes come from China, authorities said.

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April 21, 2008

California signs MOU with U.N. to help China curb greenhous gasses

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. It certainly sounds like a good idea- afterall, California has spent a huge amount of time and money to reduce the smog and pollution in our major cities, only to find that we are now the recipients of Chinese pollution. It remains to be seen whether this agreement will be purely symbolic or not. I am especially curious as to how the State intends to “encourage private entities in California to support climate change projects in China”. The State of California has few effective business programs. Will these projects go mostly to business associates of of the Governor, or channeled through shadowy lobbying organizations such as the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy?

California’s top environmental official on Tuesday plans to sign an agreement with the United Nations to help China reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The memorandum of understanding drafted by the U.N. Development Programme pairs California with one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. California produces more greenhouse gases than any other state but also has taken strides to significantly reduce its output. That includes attempts to roll back auto and factory emissions, while trying to institute an emissions-trading system for industry.

California promises to share policy ideas and research for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the four-page agreement to be signed on Earth Day in Beijing. The state also would mobilize public agencies and encourage private entities in California to support climate change projects in China.

“I think it will help show them they can indeed reach set targets and move forward on environmental protection and maintain a strong economy as California has,” Linda Adams, California’s Environmental Protection Agency secretary, said…

California’s agreement with the development program, a subsidiary of the U.N. that promotes economic development, follows several years of international outreach by the state. In 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an environmental agreement with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to help improve air quality and water quality. The agreement was amended in 2007 to further bolster California’s support of Beijing’s air quality programs.

Schwarzenegger also has entered agreements with other states and parts of Canada to implement a carbon-trading program. The governor has said those agreements will help California meet the goals of a 2006 law seeking to cut greenhouse gases roughly a quarter by 2020.

On Monday, Schwarzenegger said the state’s agreement with China recognizes that climate change requires a global solution. “America has to lead, and we are doing so with or without Washington,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “California is not waiting for the federal government to take action.”… While California is pursuing its climate change goals, state regulators and politicians are bickering over how best to implement the landmark 2006 greenhouse gas law.

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