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The Chinese have arrived In Michigan

Governor's office

Governor’s office

The Who’s-Who of Michigan’s top business professionals, government leaders, corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs and veteran regional champions gathered last week on Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Regional Chamber- Mackinac Policy Conference  – they ought to be looking over their shoulders.

What happens in China. . . does not stay in China. Global happenings impact us right here in Pure Michigan.

We need to pay attention as China returns to a historical position of strength economically and militarily. It must be noted, China had the world’s largest economy – 18 out of the past 20 centuries.

The China-United States Exchange Foundation, a non-government and non-profit organization based in Hong Kong seeks to foster a strengthened and improved relationship between China and the United States under the leadership of Tung CheeHwa, Vice Chairman of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and founder and Chairman of the Foundation recently released a report: “U.S.-China Economic Relations in the next Ten Years.”

It should be mandatory reading for government and business leaders.

The report concludes that Beijing and Washington share the desire to “establish a pattern of secure, high-quality sustainable growth and employment for their people.”

It could be argued in the early days of the normalization of the relations between China and the U.S. the China bridge was more of a one – way span in China’s favor. That certainly is not true today. Chinese investment in the U.S. is at an all-time high. According to the Heritage Foundation, total Chinese investment in the U.S. since 2005 stands at $54 billion, and expected to grow significantly over the next decade. According to the Asia Society, the Chinese will be seeking overseas  investment opportunities from between$ 1-2 trillion dollars over the next decade. Michigan and America need to be aggressive about securing a chunk of this Chinese investment.

Governor Snyder has set the table for attracting foreign direct investment that creates both wealth and jobs here at home.

Michigan’s business community now includes more than 50 major Chinese companies that have invested more than $1 billion in our state and growing,” recounted
Michael A. Finney, President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

As our new immigrant and business friendly governor,  Rick Snyder, who has traveled to China twice as governor  with a third trip planned for this fall likes to say: “Michigan is open for business and warmly welcomes you.”

Snyder is seeking foreign direct investment in our state and  wants to export our agricultural products, technology know how and other goods and services around the globe. He understands,  Michigan is two beautiful peninsulas – we are not an island in this global, knowledge economy where ideas and jobs can and do move around the globe effortlessly.

As the report, “U.S.-China Economic relations in the next ten years,” spells out,  over the course of next decade this important economic relationship has the potential to create enormous economic opportunities and millions of jobs, as well as public good, globally.

The report was released at the headquarters of the Asia Society with such luminaries as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on hand to discuss potential areas for increased cooperation between the two powers. Clearly, China and the United States hold the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century.

Understanding the importance of building mutual trust our respective leaders, President Xi Jinping and President Obama are scheduled to meet on June 8-9 at Sunnylands in California, a famous retreat southeast of Los Angeles.

With thoughtful leadership at the local, state and national level, China’s continual rise need not come at our demise.

Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins is a U.S./China business and educational consultant. He served as Michigan State Superintendent of Schools, 2001-05, was deputy and Director of the Michigan Department of Mental Health, 1983-90 and served as President and CEO of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, FL., 1996-2001. He has a life-long interest in China and serves on the University of Michigan Confucius Institute, the Detroit Chinese Business Association and Michigan Economic Development Corporation international advisory board