California Governor Gavin Newsom has been in the spotlight recently. At the end of October 2023, he paid a high-profile visit to China to promote the resumption of local exchanges between China and the United States. He was warmly received by China, and President Xi Jinping met with him in person. In early November, Newsom served as the “host” for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) informal leaders’ meeting in San Francisco, and was publicly praised by President Biden for “being able to be president in the future.” At the end of November, he participated in the red-blue gubernatorial debate as a “gladiator” and faced off against the Republican presidential candidate, Texas Governor DeSantis. Newsom was unparalleled in many important narrative lines such as China-U.S. relations and the 2024 presidential election. He exuded influence far beyond that of a governor and aroused a lot of speculation and discussion.
Newsom was born in the San Francisco Bay Area on October 10, 1967. His family has close ties with the Brown family, the Getty family, and the Pelosi family, and has certain influence in California’s political and business circles. Newsom’s grandfather, William Newsom, helped Pat Brown and Jerry Brown win the California gubernatorial election; his father, Bill Newsom (also known as William Newsom Jr.), is a close friend of Getty, the former richest man in the United States. Long-time manager of the Getty family’s huge trust fund. When Newsom was three years old, his parents divorced, and he lived with his mother, Tessa, and younger sister. Bill Newsom was unable to pay child support because he was passionate about politics and was “too charitable”, so Tessa had to work three jobs at the same time to raise the Newsom siblings. Recalling this experience, Newsom said: “We both loved and hated our father’s extraordinary selflessness. He donated money without asking for anything in return, which caused us to grow up with tremendous financial pressure. It took many years for us to come to understand him, but he devoted himself to public service. I will avoid falling into the same predicament.” In
1989, Newsom graduated from Santa Clara University and started his career through family connections and personal efforts. In 1992, Newsom founded the winery with the funding of his father’s friend Gordon Getty. The business grew and grew, and he gradually became involved in catering, real estate and other industries. After achieving business success, Newsom entered politics and was appointed to the Parking and Transportation Commission in 1996 by then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. In 2003, with Brown’s support, the 37-year-old Newsom was elected mayor of San Francisco. In 2010, Newsom ran for California Lieutenant Governor and successfully won, and was re-elected in 2014. In 2018, Newsom overwhelmingly defeated his Republican rivals to become the governor of California and was re-elected in 2022 until 2026.
“Dark Blue Governor”
As the “stronghold” of Democratic Party politics, California is the most distinctive “deep blue state” in the United States. As the governor of a “deep blue state”, Newsom strongly advocates tolerance and equal rights, and is more “progressive” than the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on many issues. He radically promotes equal rights for sexual minorities, advocates the abolition of the death penalty, supports the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of drug and property crimes. He also promotes the most liberal immigration policy and the strictest gun control policy in the United States in California.
Newsom has focused on combating climate change and promoting industrial transformation, and has introduced a series of climate transformation policies in California. For example, it plans to use 90% clean energy by 2035 and ban the sale of new fuel vehicles, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. In September 2022, Newsom signed a record-breaking $54 billion budget to combat climate change, proposing long-term goals such as creating 4 million jobs, reducing air pollution by 60%, and reducing fossil energy consumption by 91% by responding to climate change. In October 2023, Newsom signed a new bill requiring large companies in California to disclose the emissions of gases that contribute to global warming.
Newsom’s radical agenda has drawn hostility from conservatives. In 2021, Newsom’s loose immigration policies were criticized by some people for “leading to more homeless people, higher taxes, and lower quality of life.” This led to a recall vote, but it was ultimately rejected due to insufficient support.
right time right thing
On October 23, 2023, Newsom embarked on his first visit to China since being elected governor in 2019. This is also the first US local state leader to visit China in the past four years. In the context of the Biden administration’s vigorous promotion of strategic competition with China and the growing anti-China sentiment in the United States, Newsom’s visit has come under certain pressure. Some people accused him of “taking risks in China” and “walking a diplomatic tightrope”, while others warned him “not to Doing things that Washington considers to be contrary to the federal government’s China policy.” But Newsom withstood the pressure and did the right thing at the right time.
The first is to promote pragmatic cooperation from the perspective of local chief executives. At present, more and more local politicians in the United States are actively or passively manipulating China-related issues, dragging domestic political issues that have little relevance to China into China, and taking advantage of public anti-China sentiment to boost the election. This has reduced the space for local exchanges and cooperation between China and the United States. The California Governor’s Office stated that Newsom’s “historic trip to China” includes three goals: to advance climate action and cooperation, promote economic development and tourism, strengthen cultural ties, and combat hatred against Asians. These three measures have captured the contradictions in Sino-US public sentiment, observed the growth points of practical cooperation between the two countries, and also found the underlying fulcrum for stabilizing Sino-US relations through local and non-governmental exchanges.
The second is to view Sino-US relations positively from the perspective of history and development. During his visit to China, Newsom said, “Historically, the Chinese have made important contributions to the construction of California, and California has always been an important gateway for the United States to cooperate with China.” “No matter how the situation changes, California will continue to be China’s reliable partner.” Newsom faces up to the practical results that long-term cooperation and exchanges between China and the United States have brought to California’s development, insists on using “the more successful China is, the more successful we are” to define the prospects of Sino-US cooperation, opposes the so-called “de-risking” and “decoupling”, and still chooses Developing economic and trade cooperation with China, increasing ties and building more communication bridges reflect its positive and pragmatic view of China.
On November 30, after more than a year of confrontation, Newsom and Republican Florida Governor DeSantis held a televised debate on issues such as immigration, epidemic prevention, and gun control. This confrontation between the “California Experience” and the “Florida Blueprint” is a “political show” with strong implications and has certain significance for the political prospects of both parties. DeSantis has announced his participation in the 2024 presidential election, but the election is declining. A direct confrontation with the Democratic “star governor” is an opportunity for him to save the election. Newsom announced that he will not participate in the 2024 election to show his firm support and defense of Biden and his administration. However, focusing on 2028, he is becoming a “pinch” figure of the Democratic Party on the national political stage, showing his ability to grow into the new leader of the Democratic Party. potential. Newsom’s courage to “fight on the road” in traditional conservative media such as Fox News also reflects his courage. In the end, this TV debate escalated from a “red and blue governor” battle to a “red and blue road” battle in the United States, and the bonus points for Newsom were quite obvious.
At present, Newsom has his own clear political road map and knows how to make the right choice at the right time. Biden said at the welcome reception of the APEC San Francisco Summit, “Newsom can be whatever he wants to be and can get the job I’m doing (president).” Maybe one day, Newsom can really be like his “Republican Party” Like his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, he started from California and became the “plan of tomorrow” for the Democratic Party and even the United States.