FREMONT — With 2 million square feet of vacant industrial and office space, Fremont is crossing the Pacific in search of new tenants.

The city sent a nine-member trade delegation to China on Friday in hopes of persuading Chinese businesses to consider Fremont when opening a U.S. office.

The delegation has scheduled several meetings with Chinese business and government officials in and around Shanghai during the next week.

"This is our chance to see what our opportunities are and see how Fremont can benefit from the expansion of Chinese companies," Economic Development coordinator Angela Tsui said.

Fremont's pitch is threefold, she said: The city has a large Chinese population, has plenty of available space and has cheaper rents than cities closer to the heart of Silicon Valley.

The delegation, which will be in China through May 3, includes representatives from several Fremont businesses with ties to China: Sheena Chang of Vantec, Nancy Lee of Pan Pacific Bank and Theresa Cox of Lam Research, which has an office in Shanghai.

Representing the city will be Tsui, Deputy City Manager Melissa Stevenson Dile and Councilmember Bob Wieckowski.

Ohlone College board President Garrett Yee also is with them to support Ohlone's effort to open an exchange program with a technical school in the Chinese city of Suzhou, which is near Shanghai.

Fremont officials decided it would be more efficient to focus this trade mission around Shanghai, Tsui said. The city's previous mission to China in 2002 included stops in several far-flung cities.

That visit served to establish ties with Chinese government officials, who hold sway over the expansion prospects for many companies. However, it didn't directly result in any Chinese business setting up shop in Fremont, Tsui said.

Most delegation members will pay their own way, but Tsui, Stevenson Dile and Wieckowski will travel at taxpayer expense with the total cost estimated at $20,000.

Initially, Mayor Bob Wasserman and Steve Cho were supposed to represent the council, but Wasserman had to cancel, which led Cho to question the trip's merit.

"Based on what I know of the mentality of (Chinese) government officials, if you don't have the appropriate title, then the value of the trip is diminished," he said.

Wasserman said that a personal matter had forced him to cancel, and Chinese officials said his absence wouldn't be a problem. "It's not going to diminish the trip in anybody but Cho's mind," he said.

Cho, who is running against Wasserman for mayor in November, also noted that the trip comes during May 1, which is a major Chinese holiday.

"If we're going over there to conduct official business and the country is shut down, what business are we conducting?" Cho asked.

May Day traditionally has been a three-day holiday in China, but this year the government has decreed that it will last only one day.

Wieckowski, who has never visited mainland China, said Fremont needs to demonstrate to the Chinese the importance it places on establishing business ties.

"What's the thing our dads told us?" he said. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Fremont reporter Matthew Artz can be reached at 510-353-7002 or martz@bayareanewsgroup.com. For more local news, go to the Tri-City Beat Blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.