China crowds mob Schwarzenegger

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The Independent Online

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the millionaire movie star and governor of California, made a big splash at his first event in China today - perhaps too big a splash for his security detail after dozens of photographers and fans mobbed him in the Chinese capital.

Schwarzenegger had just finished speaking at an event honouring the Special Olympics program in China when bedlam descended on him and his entourage.

He and his wife, Maria Shriver, were momentarily separated from their official security detail and Chinese police had to shove away photographers and curious onlookers who surrounded the couple.

It was a new experience for Schwarzenegger, who in recent months has been dogged by protesters in California as he promoted his special election.

Schwarzenegger arrived in Beijing today to start a six-day mission to promote Californian products and encourage Chinese officials to crack down on the piracy of copyrighted music, movies and software.

Also on his agenda: political rehabilitation.

Schwarzenegger's trade mission will provide a much-needed fresh start after the losing special election campaign, allowing him to reclaim his role as California's high-profile ambassador-in-chief.

His first day schedule included the Special Olympics tribute and a reception with the 80 business leaders accompanying him on the trip, as well as a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu.

The governor will visit Shanghai and Hong Kong later in the week. In Hong Kong, he will kick off an anti-piracy public-service campaign starring himself and action star Jackie Chan.

As Schwarzenegger prepares to tackle China's rampant intellectual property theft, one doesn't have to travel far through the bustling streets of Beijing to realize how vast the problem has become.

Counterfeit products are everywhere - from phoney "Beijing 2008 Olympics " T-shirts hocked on the Great Wall, to the colourful Beijing street market where savvy tourists can buy knock-off Louis Vuitton and Prada handbags.

Schwarzenegger's own action films are available for purchase in China, mostly on pirated DVDs.

China's population of 1.3 billion and rapidly emerging economic clout make it a prime target for US companies seeking expanded markets. But its economic policies also present a huge challenge.

President Bush also visits China this week as part of a multi-nation Asia trip. In China, he plans to pressure the country to revalue its currency, reduce its trade surplus with the United States and curb intellectual property theft.

The China trip is Schwarzenegger's third overseas mission since taking office in November 2003. In 2004, he travelled to Israel and Germany on his first mission, and to Japan in the autumn.

The governor's schedule includes an event to promote trade at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, a tour of the Port of Shanghai, the premiere of the latest Harry Potter movie in Shanghai and a celebration of " California Grown" food products in Hong Kong.

He also will hold business meetings on energy, sustainable development, agriculture and ports.

California is the major gateway for US trade to China, with cotton and computer-related products leading the way.