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Politics & Policy

Breed to lead a 30-person delegation to China. Will she meet with Xi Jinping?

A woman speaks at a podium outdoors, microphones in front, gesturing mid-speech.
Mayor London Breed is flying to China this Saturday with a 30-person delegation. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Facing a tough reelection battle, Mayor London Breed is flying to China this Saturday with a 30-person delegation and kicking off a weeklong diplomatic trip to strengthen the city’s international image and promote local tourism.

The trip, which includes stops in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, is built on the momentum from last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. China’s President Xi Jinping met with Breed, President Joe Biden and other U.S. leaders during the event.

About 30 people, including City Administrator Carmen Chu, Chamber of Commerce CEO Rodney Fong, Bay Area Council COO John Grubb and several business and Chinese American community leaders, will join Breed on the trip.

“It's going to be a great trip,” Breed said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “To receive an invitation to come to China to talk about these opportunities is critically important to the long-term success of San Francisco.”

The Mayor’s Office said that Xi and Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Xie Feng, formally invited her—but whether she will meet with Xi during her upcoming trip remains a question mark.

“I'm not certain right now,” Breed told The Standard Wednesday morning. “But as soon as I find out, you'll be the first to know.”

Breed will be meeting with multiple Chinese airlines to help promote direct flights to San Francisco as well as business leaders and the mayor of Shanghai to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the sister-city relation. She will be back April 21.

Will a China trip help Breed’s reelection?

The China trip comes as Breed faces a tough reelection fight, with candidates aggressively courting Chinese voters' support. Breed’s main mayoral opponents are Board President Aaron Peskin, former interim Mayor Mark Farrell, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí and nonprofit founder Daniel Lurie.

Breed’s visit to China may help shore up her lagging support in the city’s Asian American community, as many Chinese community leaders and activists are joining her. Local Chinese immigrants who frequently visit their motherland may also see Breed’s visit as a friendly move.

Bill Lee, a former city administrator, said he was invited on the trip but can’t make it because of family reasons. He said he has been to China with multiple former mayors, and said Breed should take this China trip as an opportunity to boost her image on a bigger political stage.

“This will help her reelection,” Lee said, pointing out the potential to establish new economic opportunities and the long history of ties between the local Chinese community and China. “This is an excellent trip for London Breed.”

The trip has another possible purpose: Breed has been vocal about getting a panda for the San Francisco Zoo from China, sending two letters promoting the city as a home for the beloved animals. She is expected to bring up the topic again with top Beijing officials during the trip and hinting some good news are pending.

“I am very hopeful,” Breed said. “But ultimately, we want to make sure that we are given the green light [from Beijing], so we can move forward.”

A woman is speaking at a podium with microphones from various news outlets. She wears a peach blazer and has a multicolored top.
Mayor London Breed told reporters that one of her goals is to secure a panda for San Francisco Zoo. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Lee added that it would be a “major accomplishment” for Breed if she can successfully bring back pandas from China.

Kevin Chan, the owner of Chinatown's popular fortune cookie store, will join Breed’s delegation. He said it’s important for Breed to deepen the connections between San Francisco and China for economic and cultural exchange.

“No matter if it’s election year or not, she needs to visit China,” Chan said. “There are so many Chinese immigrants here. It will help boost her polling, I think.”

Chan praised Breed’s hard work on getting a panda and said he hopes the effort will pay back with some positive news soon.

The zoo is expected to start a massive fundraising campaign to help build the panda habitat, which may be completed in 2025.

Jaynry Mak, the president of Chinatown’s Portsmouth Plaza Parking Corporation and the board president of the Community Youth Center, is among those accompanying Breed on the trip. She’s flying into Hong Kong a couple days earlier before joining the mayor, and her big goal for the trip is to help promote San Francisco—by getting some good news about pandas.

“I believe pandas will revitalize San Francisco,” Mak said. “I am happy to support the mayor’s effort working on the pandas.”

Dennis Wu, a longtime community leader who was invited to the trip, said he couldn’t go for health reasons.

Wu is expecting Breed’s trip to be a great boost for San Francisco tourism but said he was unsure whether it will help her win more Asian voters.

“A trip to China wouldn’t hurt, but the election is still seven months away,” Wu said. “Regardless of what the candidates are doing, at least Chinese voters are getting attention now.” 

Han Li can be reached at