"We've basically said, 'We're California, show up and stand in line with everybody else,'" Pickering said. "You have to do a little more than just say you're welcoming a business. ... You have to really send a message that you are ready for it."
Asia Society, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes collaboration between the U.S. and Asia, reported in 2011 that businesses from China have established operations and created jobs in at least 35 of the 50 U.S. states, including California.
Pickering said California is behind other states in recruiting Chinese investment, while states as varied as Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida and Arkansas have had an official presence there. The Republican governors of Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin and Guam also are visiting China this month and meeting with provincial leaders to discuss trade and the environment.
"I would think it would be very difficult to try to attract investment without having someone on the ground there on your behalf," said Joe Holmes, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Agency.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe led a mission to China last year, and a number of deals are being discussed as a result, Holmes said.
Asia Society reported this year that China's direct foreign investment is poised to skyrocket to between $1 trillion and $2 trillion by 2020. California is ideally situated to capture some of that money if it goes after it: China already is California's third-largest export partner after Mexico and Canada.
And Brown already has a relationship with President Xi Jinping. The two met to discuss trade issues last year when the then-vice president visited California.
Technology, life sciences, real estate, banking, health care and agriculture are among the industries state business leaders and officials hope to target. The concentration of skilled technical engineers and the clean-energy sector in the Silicon Valley also are a draw for emerging companies, along with Chinese tourism to California.