San Francisco‘s embattled mayor, London Breed, is headed to China next month on an eight-day, five-city swing to promote tourism and strengthen relations between the two countries on trade and development. 

Her trip comes on the heels of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last year, when China’s President Xi Jinping visited San Francisco and met the mayor. At the time, she called on Xi to work with U.S. officials on stopping the flow of fentanyl, a cheap synthetic street drug that has fueled a surge of overdose deaths in the city.

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks at a dinner with business leaders during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Following APEC, Beijing has repeatedly touted its “San Francisco Vision,” a not-so-veiled warning to America not to rock the boat after years of frosty ties. APEC was seen as somewhat of a reset though tensions between the two superpowers remain. 

At the summit, Breed also asked Xi for one or two prized pandas for the San Francisco Zoo. She followed up her informal request with a formal letter in December but late last month, Beijing announced it would be giving the pandas to the San Diego Zoo. The “panda diplomacy” is a practice China began in 1941 of gifting gigantic panda bears to other countries as a tool of diplomacy. However, a 1984 policy change led to the animals being leased rather than being gifted outright. 

Breed has indicated that she would not be giving up her panda campaign and may bring it up during her time in China. 

FILE – The Washington D.C. National Zoo’s giant pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, are shown in their open-air enclosure, March 18, 1982. Panda lovers in America received a much-needed injection of hope Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, as Chinese President Xi Jinping said his government was “ready to continue” loaning the black and white icons to American zoos. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma, File)

Breed’s delegation will leave San Francisco on April 13 and visit Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing in addition to Shanghai. She is expected to return on April 21.

“I am honored to be invited to travel to China and meet with leaders in business, innovation and government,” Breed said, “to cultivate economic opportunities and strengthen ties between San Francisco and cities across the region.”

The bill for Breed’s trip is being footed by the nonprofit group San Francisco Special Events Committee, which fundraises yearound to support city-related special events. 

Tourists from China used to make up a large chunk of San Francisco’s tourism industry, adding more than $1 billion a year to the local economy. However, the pandemic and cuts to airline routes have blunted the growth, something Breed hopes to reverse. Breed is facing a tough reelection fight in November.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed delivers her State of the City address at the Pier 27 cruise terminal in San Francisco, Thursday, March 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

She has been hammered for San Francisco not bouncing back as quickly from the pandemic as other cities. Asian voters played a major role in helping get Breed elected but have since soured on the mayor after she didn’t take a stronger stand on anti-Asian violence during the pandemic. A San Francisco Chronicle poll in February showed that 80% of Asian voters disapprove of Breed’s performance as governor. 


A number of local Chinese community members have been invited to join Breed’s delegation to China, but Breed is still finalizing the guest list.

As mayor, Breed has also visited Europe and Israel.