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Menlo Park mayor plans summer visit to China

Ray Mueller would join other Peninsula mayors on 11-day trip

It's not quite on the same historical scale as President Richard Nixon's visit, but Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller is pretty excited about plans to spend nearly two weeks in China this summer -- provided the Fair Political Practices Commission bestows its blessings on the endeavor, he said.

If all goes smoothly, Mr. Mueller and possibly nine other Silicon Valley mayors will depart June 16 for a working tour of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan.

Last year, $1 billion in high-tech investment came to the United States from China, according to Mr. Mueller. This year the figure could reach $6 billion. The trip will include meeting with government officials, high-tech business leaders and investors as well as workers.

After meeting with other mayors and Chinese Consul General Yuan Nansheng on April 17, Mr. Mueller said, he's heard from entrepreneurs interested in fostering investment and other opportunities in Menlo Park.

With the area's reputation for venture capital development, "it seems to me that it makes sense to try to promote our city and our region as a place that capital can flow to for these kinds of investments," he said. "If there's money in China that wants to go and invest in the U.S. and go and invest in tech, it's going to go somewhere. So I'd like to have that discussion so we can all prosper from it."

Organized with the assistance of China Silicon Valley, the estimated $50,000 trip for the 10 mayors would be paid for by the American Asian Economic and Cultural Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, based in China.

Mr. Mueller as well as other mayors invited on the trip have asked the FPPC to review any potential ethical issues. FPPC Communications Director Jay Wierenga said the commission does not comment on specific cases, but pointed to a section of the Political Reform Act that appears to allow travel expenses to be paid by 501(c)3 nonprofits and foreign equivalents.

Will this spark a new Menlo Park tradition of globe-traveling mayors? "Peter got to go to Ireland," Mr. Mueller noted, referring to fellow councilman and then-mayor Peter Ohtaki's trip to Galway in 2013.

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