Governors meeting to stress China ties

The nation's governors will have an unusual host for their winter meeting in the nation's capital this weekend: China.

The National Governors Association meeting will set the stage for the first structured exchange among participants in a newly created U.S.-China Governors Forum. Zhang Yesui, China's ambassador to the U.S., will also be hosting the governors at the Chinese embassy Saturday evening.

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The budding relationship was initiated last month during President Hu Jintao's state visit.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, signed a memorandum of understanding at the time creating the forum as a way to promote "sub-national" cooperation.

"Governors will share ideas, connect people and businesses, and then sustain and deepen these connections through regular meetings," Clinton said at the time. "Our states and provinces can be laboratories that generate solutions. We can help each other grow trade and investment, create jobs, educate our children, and solve the problems we all share."

The association's agenda says Chinese dignitaries scheduled to attend include the secretary of the Hunan Provincial Committee and the vice president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. That association is the NGA's counterpart in the U.S.-China Governors Forum. Spokespersons for the NGA did not return calls for comment Friday.

A federal official, however, told reporters last month that the NGA's winter meeting would mark "the start of the relationship."

"The delegation that will come from China ... this is going to give them the first real opportunity in February to talk about the things of mutual interest," said Reta Jo Lewis, Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the State Department. The goal is for that to pave the way to "a much more thorough or a more comprehensive exchange ... at the NGA's summer meeting in Utah."