Gavin Newsom’s guide to China travel

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom is braving the international spotlight this week on his debut official visit to China. He wants to secure cooperation from China on climate change — and avoid triggering any hot-button flare-ups.

But diplomacy is fraught and even more so in China at a time of high bilateral tensions. So we’ve put together a handy cheat sheet of key do’s and don’ts aimed to help the Democratic governor navigate that minefield, with input from a hand-picked group of veteran China-watchers.

Don’t… order the hallucinogenic mushrooms that ended up on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s dinner plate in Beijing in July.

Do… express concern and solidarity over the apparently deliberate attack on the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco earlier this month

Don’t… bow. Conservative media pilloried Yellen for a trio of quick bows to one of her Chinese hosts in July.

Do… get a firm RSVP on whether Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping will meet with President Joe Biden at the APEC meeting in San Francisco next month

Don’t… mention former Foreign Minister Qin Gang and former Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who have both disappeared for reasons unexplained in recent months.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus:

Do… “Take the high-speed train and eat stinky tofu.”

Don’t… “Be arrogant.” (“The Chinese can smell that from 15 miles away.”)

Wu’er Kaixi, a prominent student protest leader of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that ended with a massacre of thousands of demonstrators:

Do… “Go to Tiananmen Square.”

Don’t… “Go with a smiling CCP official.”

Zack Cooper, former assistant to the deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism at the National Security Council:

Do… “Listen to what the U.S. business community has to say. I think a lot of them are going to be expressing a pretty high degree of frustration with some of the policies that Beijing is putting forward recently.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.):

Don’t… Engage with Chinese firms “involved in renewable energy that are using forced labor.”

Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.):

Don’t… “Sidestep human rights concerns.”

Yaqiu Wang, research director for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at the nonprofit human rights organization Freedom House:

Do… “Explain to Chinese officials that they need to respect human rights in addressing climate change, because not only is it the right thing to do, but also the effective thing to do.”

Don’t… “Utter the phrase ‘win-win’: ‘win-win cooperation,’ ‘win-win solution,’ ‘win-win opportunities,’ or ‘win-win’ whatever. Not because ‘win-win’ is bad, but because it is the Chinese government’s systemic word-salad effort that aims to undermine human rights.”

Melissa Chan, China affairs journalist and former Beijing-based foreign correspondent:

Do… “Speak up on behalf of your constituent David Lin who has been unlawfully imprisoned in China.”

Jason Hsu, former legislator-at-large for Taiwan’s opposition KMT, or nationalist party, and an Edward Mason fellow at Harvard Kennedy School:

Don’t… “Get all sucked in by China’s charm offensive in a way that U.S. business becomes even more dependent on China. Taiwan’s tech supply chain is telling us that it’s easy to get into China and hard to get out.”

Samuel Chu, president of the pro-democracy group The Campaign for Hong Kong:

Do… “Inquire about any bounty for reporting my whereabouts in California as one of Hong Kong’s National Security Law fugitives.”

Don’t… “Leave Hong Kong without eating some fish balls.”

Do… read up on our POLITICO China Watcher and California Climate newsletters for up-to-the-minute news and analysis that matters!

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