Given the funding questions, it's no surprise Brown also is looking to the Chinese for investment help.
The Sacramento Bee reported Thursday that California rail officials traveling with the governor met privately this week with potential Chinese investors, including the Chinese Investment Corp., a major sovereign wealth fund.
Despite the governor's praise for the Chinese approach, it's difficult to compare it to a major infrastructure project in the U.S.
The Chinese high-speed rail network benefits from heavy government financing and faces few of the environmental and legal hurdles found in California. The land needed to build the Chinese system, which stretches 5,800 miles, is often forcibly procured at below market prices.
China's high-speed rail system also has faced problems: Part of a line collapsed in central China after heavy rains, and a crash in 2011 killed 40 people. The former railway minister, who spearheaded the bullet train's construction, and the ministry's chief engineer, were detained in a corruption investigation.
Earlier this week, prosecutors submitted a lawsuit against Liu Zhijun for taking bribes and abusing his power, two years after he was ousted from his job as railways minister.
Brown met with China Premier Li Keqiang before leaving Beijing and pulled into Shanghai on Thursday night.
He will resume a full itinerary Friday as he nears the midway point of his seven-day trade visit. The main event is the opening of California's trade office and attending events promoting state agriculture and tourism.
Associated Press writer Judy Lin in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.