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Politics & Policy

‘Love all the really tall buildings!’ Breed’s YIMBY quip goes viral in China

A group of smiling people exchanging gifts on a red carpet outside a modern building.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed comment about Shenzhen's architecture went viral on Chinese social media. | Source: Courtesy Office of the Mayor

San Francisco Mayor London Breed is apparently jealous of one thing in Shenzhen, China.

Breed, an outspoken pro-density YIMBY, was amazed by the skyscrapers in the southern Chinese city during her visit this week, and her reaction is now going viral on Chinese social media.

“I love all the really tall buildings!” Breed responded excitedly to a reporter asking her what she thinks about Shenzhen. “So we are looking forward to doing more of that in San Francisco.”

Video of Breed’s comments garnered more than 12,000 likes and 2,000 comments on Douyin, a TikTok-like app popular in mainland China. On WeChat, the short clip also received more than 10,000 likes and reposts. Many of the comments praised Breed’s visit and improvements in U.S.-China relations.

Shenzhen, a major city in Guangdong Province that borders Hong Kong, is a fast-growing technology hub and home to almost 18 million people. Dozens of commercial buildings stand over 800 feet tall, with more than 50 stories.

It’s unclear whether Breed’s comment was an appreciation of Shenzhen’s downtown business skyscrapers or residential towers, which are often very tall in China.

Two people in business attire look out a window at an urban landscape with a distinctive tower in the distance.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed looks out the window at Shenzen Airport on Monday. | Source: Courtesy Office of the Mayor

Facing a tough reelection campaign back home, Breed has long promised to cut red tape in building new housing. However, she recently lost a battle with Supervisor Aaron Peskin—also a mayoral candidate—over a bill to limit density in a section of his Northern Waterfront district.

Breed’s weeklong China trip aims to promote local tourism and seal a deal to rent pandas for the San Francisco Zoo. She’s leading a 30-person delegation and landed in China over the weekend. In a press release, Breed touted the trip as deepening economic ties between China and San Francisco and cited the long history of immigration from Guangdong to the city.

“San Francisco is more than a world-class destination,” Breed said in a statement. “Our city is a global partner to cities around the world. My hope for this trip is to reemphasize the importance of creating strong partnerships around the world that will yield both cultural connections and economic opportunities.”

Carmen Chu, city administrator of San Francisco and the daughter of Chinese immigrants, joined Breed for this trip. She praised Breed’s leadership in fostering a stronger connection between San Francisco and Guangdong.

"As someone who grew up in an immigrant family of southern China, this trip means so much to me and San Francisco,” Chu said. “We continue to recognize all of the contributions by our Chinese American community that helps [build] this city.”

Chinese media has followed Breed closely during the trip. Even her “fusion” food at a buffet made the news as a reporter filmed her putting rice noodles on salad and called it a “mix of Chinese and Western styles.”

After the visit to Shenzhen, Breed traveled to Guangzhou and visited Bruce Lee’s family home. She will head to Beijing on Wednesday morning.