Christine Gregoire, Raving About $45-a-Pound Cherries, Gets Glowing Press in China

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Christine Gregoire may be a lame-duck governor forced into making horrendous budget cuts, but she's receiving some flashy positive press--from the Chinese.

A story in China Daily--reprinted in a two-page advertising spread for the English-language publication that ran in The New York Times on Friday--contained our governor's mug and the glowing headline: "Opportunity knocks for states and cities."

In the kind of puff piece that Gregoire surely wished she could get here, the governor was singled out for her role in forging a new economic "forum" between governors here and their counterparts in China. As head of the National Governors Association, Gregoire kicked off the forum with a signing ceremony in February.

As yet, there seems to be little to say about this forum, other than that it is designed to promote trade opportunities and is, of course, "a win win" for both countries, as Gregoire put it to China Daily, which is designed for English speakers both in China and abroad. Spokespeople for Gregoire and the state Department of Agriculture didn't know much about the new pact.

What they can confirm is that China is a huge growth market for Washington state. Among the facts and figures forwarded to SW by DOA spokesperson Jason Kelly is this: The state's exports to China have increased an average 19 percent a year since 2000. That pace continued throughout the recession, which China apparently has hardly felt.

China is now one of Washington's biggest trading partners, with $10.3 billion in exports coming from the Evergreen State last year, according to China Daily. As the publication pointed out, Gregoire gleefully noted on her blog during a visit last fall to Shanghai that Washington cherries were selling for $45 a pound. China Daily failed to note whether the Chinese are equally thrilled with this exorbitant pricing.

Even on more important matters, though, the Chinese press is not supposed to ask a lot of questions. Just today, The Wall Street Journal reports that the China Economic Times is disbanding its well-respected investigative team due to a clamp-down by the Communist Party.

No word from the governor--who was invited to a White House dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao back in January--on that kind of activity in China. Gregoire spokesperson Karina Shagren says the governor "sees her director role is to work on the economic relationship and leave it to the federal government and State Department to take the lead on the human-rights issue."

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