SHANGHAI, China – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured China's largest steel plant Thursday morning, praising its use of California technologies to reduce wastewater pollution.
He also spoke extensively to reporters for the first time during his three-city China trade mission, on topics ranging from China's human rights record to the country's struggle to contain the avian flu.
Shanghai is the second city on Schwarzenegger's six-day trade mission promoting California products and business opportunities. He travels to Hong Kong later in the week.
The governor told reporters that China's evolution on human rights and openness was going to be a slow process, but talks with government officials have convinced him the country was moving in the right direction.
"I think if you expect change from one day to the next it won't happen," Schwarzenegger said after touring Shanghai's BaoSteel plant. "Because obviously the Chinese are looking at Russia and they made a big mistake. They made changes from one day to the next and the whole thing did not turn out as successful."
He said he did not fault President Bush for his controversial comments earlier this week suggesting China should model itself on Taiwan.
Bush, who is scheduled to travel to China over the weekend as part of an Asian trip, prodded the communist nation to open its economy and grant basic freedoms to its 1.3 billion people.
"Everyone has the right to express an opinion," Schwarzenegger said. "The Chinese can talk about how our system has failed some people. I think President Bush can talk about how their system has failed. I think that's OK."
With China's first confirmed human death from avian flu still fresh in Thursday's headlines, Schwarzenegger said he was ready to spend "whatever it takes" to make sure Californians were protected.
"We owe it to the people," he said. "I make very clear to everyone in my office, I don't want to hear afterward we didn't have enough staff in labs, we didn't respond quickly enough."
Schwarzenegger noted that he was observing the second anniversary of his inauguration as governor, saying it had been the most rewarding two years of his life.
Despite the drubbing he took in the Nov. 8 special election when voters rejected his "year of reform" agenda, the Republican governor said he was ready to move on.
"I know there is the negative side to it, I know there is the beating you get, the ups and downs that are there but that's OK," he said. "I'm at the right place at the right time."
Schwarzenegger praised BaoSteel's use of environmental technology produced by McWong International, a California-based engineering and design company.
He was later scheduled to walk the red carpet at the Shanghai premiere of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."