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Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory spent last week in China on an unannounced trip – and some City Council members didn’t know he was out of town, much less out of the country.

Mallory was the only mayor asked to go on the weeklong trip to Beijing with the National Urban League to promote African-American business and investment between China and the United States. The Urban League says the trip was the first time a sizeable national delegation of African-Americans traveled to China on a trade and cultural mission.

Mallory alerted Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, in case something came up while he was gone that she needed to handle. Last week’s City Council meeting was canceled because he was gone. Another meeting, two weeks earlier, was canceled when Mallory went to Washington for a mayors’ meeting. Council usually does not meet without him.

“The opportunities in China are vast because of the explosion in their middle class,” Mallory said.

He plans to put Sean Rugless, president of the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African-American Chamber of Commerce, in touch with Chinese officials. He talked to the Chinese people about Cincinnati’s streetcar project and the Banks riverfront development, among other things, and hopes the trip results in some investment here by Chinese businesses and/or some opportunities in China that can be made available to local black business owners.

Most of the China trip was paid for by the Chinese government. Mallory spent about $300 from a city economic development fund created with proceeds from a deal with Duke Energy to cover his airfare to and a hotel in Newark, N.J., where the delegation met. The group flew free on Continental Airlines. Council members Jeff Berding and Leslie Ghiz, who are not members of Mallory’s City Hall circle and did not know he was going, wanted to know how the trip was paid for. The Duke fund is not taxpayers’ money.

The more than 40 black leaders were led by former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, chairman of the 2010 Census, a topic Mallory’s promoting through the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

After returning to Newark, the mayor took a train to Washington to go to the Democratic National Committee meeting last weekend.