State and local tourism officials are among those joining Brown on the trip, along with winemakers, cheese proprietors and almond growers. In all, about 75 business and policy leaders from a cross-section of California industries are joining the mission, which will include stops in the capital city, Beijing, as well as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Those cities are among the most developed and important in China. Shanghai, a port city, is an important center of industry and finance, while Guangzhou is in the heartland of the Pearl River Delta region, which is home to the myriad processing and assembling factories that have made China the world's factory floor.

The nearly $4 billion a year in computer and electronic products California sends to China account for the state's largest export, followed by waste and scrap, non-electrical machinery and transportation equipment. The agriculture products such as strawberries, almonds and lettuce are fifth.

According to the governor's office, the vast majority of Chinese exports headed to the United States go through California ports.

The trip also signals a pivot for Brown as he seeks to rebuild California's nearly $2 trillion economy after the state's tumultuous ride during the Great Recession. It was the epicenter of the housing crisis and weathered double-digit unemployment for nearly four years.

Brown said the state budget has stabilized, in large part because of voter-approved tax increases, and that he is now moving on to broader policy issues.

"California is a place where it's a cauldron of creative activity, and I see that China has some of that, maybe a lot of that," Brown said in the interview. "You have always got to find a way to renew things, and that's what I see as my job here."

The governor's boldest and most expensive projects are a $68 billion high-speed rail system that is expected to start construction this summer and a $24 billion project to build massive water-delivery tunnels and restore parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast.

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