SEATTLE — Leaders from Michigan to Beijing attended meetings Tuesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the U.S. and signed an agreement aimed at pushing cooperation on the use of clean tech businesses to combat climate change.
The meetings with governors from five U.S. states and local Chinese officials came on the first day of Xi's visit to the U.S. that includes a state dinner Friday with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
"We can be the core for our national leaders to learn from," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said, noting he has made five trips to China in five years.
Xi arrived in Seattle earlier in the day for talks on how U.S. and Chinese experts and businesses can collaborate on things such as nuclear energy and smarter electricity use.
Xi was to deliver a policy speech during a banquet Tuesday evening.
The visit comes a year after Xi and Obama announced their nations would cooperate to fight climate change.
"These are the largest economies in the world, and we're the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, so improving cooperation and collaboration is really a necessity," said Brian Young, Washington state director of economic development for the clean technology sector. "Second, it's a huge business opportunity. Both sides recognize the opportunity for job creation."
The governors who met with Xi included Snyder, Jay Inslee of Washington, Jerry Brown of California, Terry Branstad of Iowa and Kate Brown of Oregon. All five signed the agreement on use of clean tech businesses.
Chinese leaders at the meeting included Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun, Shandong Gov. Guo Shuqing and others.
U.S.-China cooperation on climate-change has been a warm and fuzzy point of relations between the superpowers.
In November 2009, Obama and then-President Hu Jintao formalized a renewable energy partnership, including the establishment of clean-energy research centers focused on electric vehicles, cleaner coal and water energy programs.
Last November, Obama and Xi announced that the countries would work together on climate change, with China announcing it would try to cap its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, or sooner if possible.
By contrast, hacking attacks on the U.S., said to be directed by Beijing; China's moves to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea; and human rights issues have been sore spots.
The trip comes at a time when China's economic growth has slowed considerably, and when the communist nation is overhauling its economy.
Some clean-tech firms in Washington state, which relies largely on hydropower and where natural gas is currently cheap, may find markets and investment in China sooner than they might domestically, he said.
Also Tuesday, TerraPower Inc., an energy company founded by Bill Gates, entered into an agreement with China National Nuclear Corp. to work together on next-generation nuclear power plant technology.
"The world does need a lot more energy and it needs reliable energy with zero CO2," Gates, the former Microsoft CEO, said at the signing ceremony.
China invested a record $83 billion in renewable energy last year, according to the Frankfurt School's Center for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance in Germany.
Supporters turned out in Seattle to welcome the Chinese president and other dignitaries traveling in his motorcade.
Wendy Hu, a native of Guangdong Province who has lived in Seattle for 20 years, brought her 11-year-old daughter, Anna Ni.
"China and the U.S. are good partners now, with Boeing and Microsoft," Hu said. "I love both countries."
Hundreds of protesters from the religious group Falun Gong demonstrated outside the federal courthouse, holding banners and banging drums as the motorcade passed.
Falun Gong says members are persecuted in China.
"It's about compassion and tolerance," said Sabrina Chang, 28, who traveled to Seattle with other Falun Gong practitioners for the protest.