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San Francisco mayor to visit China in April, courting tourists and pandas

Two people stand behind a Chinese flag on a balcony with a decorative railing.
Mayor London Breed raises a Chinese flag with Chinese Consul General Zhang Jianmin at San Francisco City Hall in 2023. She's planning a trip to China in April. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

San Francisco Mayor London Breed will travel to China in April for an official visit intended to promote San Francisco tourism, strengthen sister city relations with Shanghai and—perhaps most importantly—potentially bring back some good news about pandas.

Breed’s delegation will depart on April 13 and visit Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing in addition to Shanghai. She will return on April 21.

“I am honored to be invited to travel to China and meet with leaders in business, innovation and government,” Breed said, “to cultivate economic opportunities and strengthen ties between San Francisco and cities across the region.”

She also acknowledged the trip builds on the momentum from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last year, when China’s President Xi Jinping visited San Francisco and met with Breed.

A woman in a red blazer shakes hands with a man in a dark blue suit, both smiling, with onlookers in suits behind them.
A screen grab of video footage of Mayor London Breed bidding farewell to President Xi Jinping after he came to San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November 2023. | Source: CCTV

Breed’s itinerary includes a high-speed train ride between Beijing and Shanghai and a meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce in South China in Guangzhou.

Breed’s trip is similar to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s high-profile China visit last year, except Breed is not visiting Yancheng. She is set to meet with the mayors from Shanghai and Guangzhou, but it’s unclear which high-level government officials Breed will meet in Beijing. Newsom met with Xi in Beijing during his trip, which came just before the APEC. 

It’s unclear how much the trip will cost, but it’s not paid for by taxpayer money.

According to the Mayor’s Office, the trip is sponsored by the nonprofit San Francisco Special Events Committee, which is under the city’s Chief of Protocol Maryam Muduroglu and fundraises year-round to support a wide range of city-related special events.

Since APEC, Beijing has touted what it’s calling the “San Francisco Vision”—a reset of U.S.-China relations after a particularly frosty period. Breed herself has met with top Beijing officials and has signaled her desire to bring one or two pandas to the San Francisco Zoo.

Breed’s visit to China is the latest international trip for the mayor. In 2022 and 2023, she visited Europe and Israel to boost tourism and build sister-city ties. This is also not Breed’s first China trip—she visited the country when she was a city supervisor.

Tourists from China used to be the major force for San Francisco’s tourism industry, with half a million people coming per year and contributing more than $1 billion to the local economy. The number plummeted during the pandemic amid lockdowns and cuts to airline routes.

According to San Francisco Travel, the tide began to turn last year. The agency predicts that in 2024, about 385,000 visitors will be coming from China, spending an estimated $1.1 billion. That would put China back in first place as the top source of overseas visitors and spending.

A number of local Chinese community members have been invited to join Breed’s delegation to China, but the Mayor’s Office is still finalizing the guest list.

Han Li can be reached at