WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping pose for photographs before meeting in the Oval Office at the White House February 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. While in Washington, Vice President Xi will meet with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other senior Administration officials to discuss a broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A major political figure of global import descends on California this week for what may prove to be an important visit.
President Obama? Heck, no. He's here to raise money for an election campaign, and is not expected to do anything of consequence.
The presidential visit that matters is by the man who is likely to be China's next top political leader, Xi Jinping. Xi is currently the country's vice president, but he's expected to become the top official of the Chinese Community Party and the country's president.
It's hard to overstate Xi's potential importance to the world, and to California. China is one of the state's top four trading partners -- in a state that is heavily dependent on trade. A more prosperous, freer China might produce more tourists, and tourism is another core California industry.
Xi has worked carefully and cautiously up the China's less-than-democratic governign apparatus, but there is some hope for him as a more open leader for China. He tolerated dissent and the rise of independent organizations during his time as a provincial leader, and permitted local elections that saw non-sanctioned people win office.
Xi has a child attending college in the United States. And those in Hollywood may note that Xi is known as a patron of film and other arts; he's married to a famous Chinese folk singer. And he's spent considerable time on North Korea, a security threat particularly for the U.S. West Coast given the hermit kingdom's history of threatening missile attacks.
What to make of all this? It's hard to say, since Xi's views on many issues aren't known. But Angelenos may get a glimpse of him, and he'll be meeting with business leaders and elected officials, starting with Mayor Villaraigosa and Gov. Jerry Brown on the LAX tarmac on Thursday.
They won't be greeting President Obama the same way.