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Xi Jinping Does L.A.: China's Vice President Hopes for Lakers Game, Ride on City Yacht

China and Los Angeles are BFFing out of control right now.

After L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took a $30,000-a-day tour of Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai in December, one of China's top officials is returning the favor:

Vice President Xi Jinping, fully expected to become the rising nation's next president, is devoting two full days of next week's U.S. tour to Los Angeles. Here's his itinerary, based on information from media reports:

  • Arrive at LAX with giant posse on Thurdsay. Jump into open arms of Mayor Villaraigosa, who will then whisk him away to "a luncheon to welcome the delegation," according to City News Service.
  • Tour the Port of Los Angeles. And y'all know what that means! Luxury cruise in our very own taxpayer-funded city yacht.
  • "Sign agreements to expand Chinese tourism to L.A." and "announce a new Chinese company in the city" alongside the beaming mayor.
  • Meet up with some bigger political players -- Vice President Joe Biden and California Governor Jerry Brown -- for "a U.S.-China economic and trade forum." (Don't worry, Mayor V; you and Xi have a connection that no D.C./Sacramento hotshot could rival.)
  • Last but not least, before flying out Friday evening, the guest of honor hopes to make a stop at Staples Center to watch the Los Angeles Lakers whup the Phoenix Suns. Breathless details from the Wall Street Journal:
Details of Vice President Xi's visit are still being finalized--and the schedule could change at any time--but officials are making arrangements for him to attend the game in Los Angeles on the last day of his visit, possibly with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, these people said. He would be the first Chinese leader to attend an NBA match.

The idea originated from the Chinese side, these people said, and appears to be another attempt to establish an image for Mr. Xi at home and overseas as a relatively open and confident leader who feels comfortable in a public setting, and in dealing with the U.S.

Some bittersweet news for Clippers fans: The Journal reports that Xi originally wanted to attend a Clippers game, going so far as to make a "personal request" to the U.S. Treasury Secretary. (Damn, Xi! Good taste!) But unfortunately, "since their next game is not until Feb. 18th -- the day after he leaves -- arrangements are being made for him to watch the Lakers instead."

Boo. Still, it'll be fun to see if Villaraigosa tags along and breaks some more ethics rules. Also, to see how hard he schmoozes Xi for subway and high-speed-rail funding, which he desperately needs to fulfill his campaign promises. Further reading: "Should China Own the L.A. Subway?"

Below, Villaraigosa's me-me-me statement on the visit.

"I am honored that Vice President Xi Jinping accepted my invitation to visit Los Angeles as we continue to foster relationships that were renewed during my trade mission to China in December."

Guess we're embracing the Commies now! Democracy becomes a little less important to a pol when he's drained all his own coffers and needs some foreign gold to fund his pipe dreams.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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