Gov. Gavin Newsom prepares to sign a memorandum of understanding in Beijing, China on Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Ng Han Guan, AP Photo

From CalMatters Capitol reporter Alexei Koseff

As he toured a wind turbine factory in China’s Jiangsu province last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the owner showed him a video of the famous wind farm in Livermore’s Altamont Pass.

It was what had inspired the man to get into the turbine business, according to the governor — illustrating California’s global leadership on renewable energy and how decades of partnership with China to tackle climate change have paid off with concrete progress.

The inspiration seems to be flowing the other direction these days, as China has leaped ahead of the world in areas such as offshore wind energy and electric vehicle adoption that are critical to California hitting its ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades. 

On a phone call with reporters Tuesday to debrief his weeklong trip to China, Newsom said things have changed dramatically since he first visited nearly two decades ago as mayor of San Francisco. During many exchanges with Chinese companies and officials, the governor and his team were asking more questions than having questions asked of them.

“What is remarkable is the scale and scope of what you’re seeing in China,” Newsom said. “The export of ideas is shifting a bit now.”

In addition to offshore wind and electric vehicles, Newsom said he looked forward to continuing to learn about China’s progress on regenerative and sustainable agriculture, endangered species protection and wetlands preservation. These will be crucial as California seeks to conserve at least 30% of its land and coastal waters by 2030, part of an international pact to preserve biodiversity.

After signing five new memorandums of understanding in China, the governor expects teams from his administration and state agencies such as the California Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board to return and build on the work of his trip, as Chinese delegations have visited California in the past to collaborate on issues including air quality.

  • Newsom: “California can’t solve its climate crisis alone. It needs partners. And as I said, the United States can’t either, without the partnership of China and the globe.”

Reporters repeatedly asked Newsom about his surprise meeting with Chinese President Xi Jingping and criticism that he focused his tour on climate at the expense of highlighting China’s human rights abuses and stifling of democracy. Newsom reiterated that he raised those concerns with high-ranking Chinese officials and discussed during his “very tight and constrained meeting” with Xi how black-market chemicals from China are fueling California’s fentanyl crisis.

But the governor had no interest in reflecting publicly on how the trip — his first major foray into international relations as he has become a widely expected future presidential candidate — might reshape perceptions of him as a national political figure.

  • Newsom: “I’ll leave that to more objective minds, and that was not top of mind in terms of the reason for the trip.”

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The money race in U.S. Senate campaign

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

In California’s 2024 U.S. Senate race, there’s the contest for actual votes, reflected in the polls. Then there’s the race for campaign cash, which pays for all the ads and staff that can help win over voters. 

CalMatters’ politics reporter Yue Stella Yu and data reporter Jeremia Kimelman take a deep dive into the fundraising by the leading contenders — Democratic U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff — as they campaign for the March 5 primary.

Some of their key findings, based on itemized contributions for Jan. 1 through Sept. 30:    

  • Brentwood generosity: More than any other zip code, residents in a Brentwood neighborhood (90049) donated the most campaign cash for Senate candidates this year, collectively contributing roughly $283,000 total to the top three Democrats.
  • Hometown love: Eight of the top 10 California zip codes contributing to Schiff’s campaigns are located in his home Los Angeles County. The top contributing zip codes for Lee, who is from Oakland, are mainly in Northern California. But for Porter, who represents a more Republican district, only one of the top 10 California zip codes contributing to her campaign is in her home Orange County. 
  • California cash: Lee has the highest share raised in-state among the three candidates (64.6%), though Schiff’s campaign had the highest total amount ($6.4 million). After California, most contributions come from New York.
  • Ready to give: Retirees are the second-biggest contributing occupation to all three candidates, followed by attorneys. Topping the list, however, are people who identify as “not employed,” which can mean a variety of things, such as someone between jobs, a homemaker, a philanthropist or an investor.
  • PAC money: With the three candidates pledging to reject corporate PAC contributions, none have PAC money exceeding more than 4% of their totals.

For more information on campaign finance in the U.S. Senate race, read Stella and Jeremia’s story.

A worrisome uptick in mpox

Zelynn Tirona prepares monkeypox vaccines for administration at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters
Zelynn Tirona prepares monkeypox vaccines for administration at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

COVID hasn’t gone away, and neither has the disease formerly known as monkeypox.

On Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health issued an alert that there has been a recent rise in cases of the viral disease mpox, particularly in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions. In July and August, California averaged fewer than seven cases a week, but that number rose to 17 per week between Sept. 20 and Oct. 10.

Mpox spreads by close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the disease. It includes symptoms that are similar to the flu, as well as rashes and sores on the face and body. The department urges vaccinations for the highest-risk individuals. That includes a person who has been exposed to someone with mpox; a person who has more than one sexual partner; a man who has sex with other men and has been newly diagnosed with sexually transmitted disease and others. The vaccine is taken in two doses and can prevent mpox from spreading or reduce the severity of the illness. 

For the winter, when many diseases commonly spread, the health department has been struggling to persuade more people in the state to receive the new COVID booster. According to the latest data, only 4.6% of Californians have received their COVID booster, with the highest concentration of vaccinated people located around the Bay Area. 

For both COVID and mpox, the precautions are the same for those infected: Isolate from others as much as possible until symptoms have gone away and wear a well-fitting mask if you have to be in public.

Also, starting today at Santa Clara County hospitals and clinics, everyone must wear masks in patient care areas until the end of March. Masks are required for health care workers in Alameda, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Sonoma counties in patient care areas, The Mercury News reports.

CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The fall of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy leaves the state’s congressional Republicans more vulnerable in the 2024 election.

Pausing California’s landmark law aimed at reducing organic waste in landfills would be a mistake, writes Chris Thomas, vice president of public affairs at Divert.

Other things worth your time:

Some stories may require a subscription to read.

CA attorney general reviews mystery sports betting ballot measures // The Sacramento Bee

US Supreme Court asked to protect CA officials from Facebook critics // Los Angeles Times

CA loses four more home insurance brands, for varying reasons // San Francisco Chronicle

Hidden costs for work-from-home employees leaving CA // Los Angeles Times

Schools design for extra security in era of campus shootings // EdSource

Child sex trafficking is a new three-strikes crime, so is more on the way? // The Sacramento Bee

Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper calls Newsom a ‘moral coward’ // San Francisco Chronicle

Biden’s new executive order on AI expected to boost Silicon Valley // The Mercury News

Judge blocks law banning gun shows on state property // San Francisco Chronicle

SF likely to miss state deadline on housing reform bill // The San Francisco Standard

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Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an edtech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento...