UPDATED 09/15/11 11:46 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn is leaving for China on Friday, in hopes of bolstering the state’s economic relationship with the country.

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Quinn will arrive in China on Saturday for an eight-day trade mission, intended to strengthen exports to China, and encourage Chinese investments in Illinois.

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“Illinois’ relationship with China and with Chinese businesses is an extremely important part of not only helping our economy grow but also making sure Illinois continues to be a strong competitor in today’s global marketplace,” Quinn said in a news release. “Trade and investment in China are essential to growing our economy and during this trip, we will promote Illinois’ exports and encourage Chinese companies to invest in Illinois.”

Quinn will be accompanied by a delegation representing Illinois businesses and scholarly institutions, as well as other state lawmakers and local government representatives. He will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Among the events Quinn has planned is a keynote address at a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China, according to the release, which noted that nearly 30 Chinese companies have already invested in Illinois.

Quinn will also sign new export contracts in the agriculture and telecommunications industries, sign memorandums of understanding for future business deals in fields such as clean energy and biotech, and meet with University of Illinois graduates now living in China, the release said.

This will be Quinn’s first visit to China.

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WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports a local expert on the Chinese economy says this is a good time for Quinn to go.

The international economic picture is uncertain, but professor Benjamin Jones at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management says China remains one of bright spots in the world economy.

“It continues to be a source of demand for other countries; a source of capital possibly for investment in other countries, and that’s just in the short run,” he said. “In the long run, China has put together an impressive, 30-some year trajectory of growth that has been extremely rapid by historical standards.”

Quinn says it’s good for the governor and his trade mission to make contacts and deals in China early, b because China has a lot of international suitors.

Trade relations with China has long been a focus of Illinois political leaders, particularly now-retired Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Daley visited China five times while in office just between 2004 and this year, and trade relations with China were a major focus for the retired mayor in his final years in office. His last visit was just before leaving office, when he went to solicit funds for transportation projects.

Just after leaving office, Daley joined the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, as it was in the process of opening an office in Shanghai.

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In January, about four months before Daley left office, Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Chicago. It was his only stop besides Washington, D.C., on his trip to the U.S.