BEIJING - Of all the things the Chinese government appears to take seriously, one of the most innocuous is the memorandum of understanding, known in city halls and state houses in the United States as the lowly MOU.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the first of a series of non-binding agreements he is expected to make with Chinese commerce officials while on a week-long trade mission. They pledged to establish a "Chinese Provinces and US California Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment Cooperation."
According to the agreement, "The two parties will set up an annual meeting mechanism in the forms of video conference or meeting in person."
For the detail-oriented, the agreement provides that "the time of each meeting will be decided by the two parties through consultation."
On Wednesday, the time was determined by China's commerce minister, Gao Hucheng. He met with Brown about 8 a.m. at the Ministry of Commerce before the MOU was signed that afternoon.
"First of all, I'd like to offer you my apologies for the fact that I had to move this meeting to 8 o'clock," the busy commerce minister said through an interpreter, "considering that you might still suffer from jet lag from the United States."
Sitting across from Gao in a conference room, Brown suggested he didn't mind.
"Thank you for receiving me at 8 o'clock," Brown said. "We have a saying that the early bird gets the worm."
The two men exchanged hopeful remarks about their partnership before the clock again was on Gao's mind.
"In the interest of time," he said, he had to go.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown meet with China's commerce minister, Gao Hucheng, in Beijing on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee