BEIJING – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, bruised last week in a special election at home, began a six-day trade mission in the Far East on Monday, trying to tap into the burgeoning Chinese market by promoting California products and urging protections for Hollywood from the piracy of copyrighted movies.
Schwarzenegger's celebrity quickly overshadowed his recent political woes — he and his wife, Maria Shriver, were briefly mobbed by fans and photographers Monday in a moment of chaos.
No one was hurt in the melee, but both the governor and first lady appeared momentarily shaken. Shriver later acknowledged she had been "a little" scared by the pandemonium of the eager crowd.
Earlier, Schwarzenegger paid tribute to the Special Olympics program, founded by his mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Onstage before hundreds of Special Olympics athletes, Schwarzenegger said the program had signed up half a million Chinese participants in the last five years — a significant milestone in a country where disabled people have long been marginalized by the society and authoritarian government.
The tenfold increase since 2000, Schwarzenegger said, "meant the Chinese people are giving change a chance, they're giving tolerance a chance, they're giving inclusion a chance, and they're giving love a chance."
Joining Schwarzenegger onstage was Deng Pufang, Chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation and the son of China's late leader Deng Xiao Peng.
The governor was scheduled to appear Tuesday with former President George H.W. Bush at a conference on energy and sustainable development. Schwarzenegger is to travel later this week to Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Since becoming governor in 2003, Schwarzenegger has made official visits to Israel, Japan, Germany and Mexico. But China's size — 1.3 billion people and growing — authoritarian government and rapidly emerging economic clout offer a particularly vexing challenge in the global marketplace. Just last year, China sold $162 billion more goods to the United States than the United States sold to China, and the gap is widening.
California is the major gateway for U.S. trade to China, with cotton and computer-related products leading the way. The state exported $6.8 billion in goods to China in 2004, double what it exported in 2000, according to the California Chamber of Commerce.
"We're at a tipping point with China, and we have a lot to learn about what the Chinese are doing," said Chris Nance, a spokesman for state Business, Transportation and Housing Secretary Sunne McPeak.
Schwarzenegger is traveling with several cabinet secretaries and a delegation of 80 executives eager to promote companies that include Pfizer Inc., Universal Studios and Qualcomm Inc.
Topping the governor's agenda will be trying to persuade the government to go after copyright piracy.
China's black market has translated into millions of dollars lost from the California economy. At least 90 percent of software programs and movie DVDs sold in China are pirated, according to some industry estimates. Millions of Schwarzenegger's own action films are available for purchase in China, mostly on pirated DVDs.
In Hong Kong, Schwarzenegger will kick off an anti-piracy public-service campaign starring himself and action star Jackie Chan.
Also in China this week is Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and President Bush, who is visiting as part of a multination Asia trip. Schwarzenegger and Bush avoided each other on the president's two most recent trips to California. It's not known whether their paths will cross halfway around the world.