In a late night conference call from China, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy described his trade mission Wednesday as an overdue effort to strengthen ties with a nation that has the world’s fastest-growing middle class and trillions in capital to invest.
“I don’t think we have competed on an equal footing with other states,” said Malloy, who told reporters he is one of a half-dozen governors visiting China in coming weeks.
Connecticut was one of the first states to establish a sister-relationship with a Chinese province, a relationship that brought Gov. William A. O’Neill to China in 1987 during the Reagan administration. The University of Connecticut offered an early acturial program in China.
“Quite frankly, we kind of dropped the ball,” Malloy said. “We do things, but we don’t do them consistently. We lose the advantage we might otherwise have.”
No Connecticut governor has traveled to China in the intervening 25 years, a time when China has emerged as a world economic power, commanding the attention of U.S. corporations and governors.
“We had to renew our relationship,” Malloy said.
He talked to Connecticut reporters at 10:05 a.m. Eastern time, nearing the end of a day in China that marked the mid-point on a trip with Catherine Smith, his economic development commissioner, and business leaders.
“It’s 12 hours later here, and it’s been a long day,” Malloy said.
His call was abruptly terminated when a reporter asked about changes in security he might have observed after the attacks on U.S. envoys in Libya and Egypt. The call was re-established.
The governor’s staff said the call was not terminated by them, and they were unsure what caused the interruption.
Malloy said China is rapidly changing as a trade partner, evolving from a source of cheap manufacturing to a source of capital and as a market for products and services, including insurance and financial consulting.
“I think the idea of this shift of manufacturing to China is dying out, and I think they realize that,” Malloy said.
Senior government officials told Malloy the government is encouraging the investment of private Chinese capital overseas in a variety of areas, including U.S. real-estate development.
“It’s revolutionary,” Malloy said.
Malloy departed for China on Saturday, a day after his return to Connecticut from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where he delivered an address.
He arrived Sunday in Beijing, where he stayed until departing Tuesday by high-speed train for the economic forum in Tianjin. He called reporters from Tianjin.
His office is spending about $20,000 for travel and accomodations for the governor and one aide, Michael Mandell, who speaks Chinese.
On Thursday morning, Malloy is to travel by high-speed train to Shandong, Connecticut’s sister province.
“Tomorrow, we begin a new chapter in the relationship with our sister province,” Malloy said. “Unfortunately, it’s in some level of disrepair.”
He will be in Shandong for two days. Located west of South Korea on China’s eastern coast, Shandong has long been exposed to Western influences. Today, it is one of the richest provinces in the country.