Politics & Government
4:34 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Stateside: Keeping an eye on China's elections

Communist Party leaders are meeting in Beijing for an important shuffling of China’s leadership, including the selection of a new president.

Tom Watkins is the former state school superintendent and has been closely involved in building ties between Michigan and China. Tonight, he’s flying to Beijing to be present for the selection of China’s new president.

Watkins held confidence in both China and Xi Jinping, the country's vice president and likely contender for president.

“Xi Jinping was impacted by the cultural revolution. His father was one of the original revolutionaries. He was sent to the countryside to work with the peasants for over seven years as a child. He has ties to America, he had lunch with President Obama and visited Iowa,” said Watkins.

For Watkins, the way in which the United States conducts its relationship with China has both local and worldwide consequences.

“We need to collaborate and cooperate but we’re also competitors. Our relationship will impact all of humanity,” said Watkins.

Coming to power, China's new president will face pressing economic and environmental issues.

“There is still a great sense of inequity. There are pollution problems and the economic gaps. The biggest fear he has is losing control from the masses internally,” said Watkins.

These elections, said Watkins, will greatly affect Michigan and its future economy.

“Governor Snyder’s strategy is to seek ways we can export our goods to the rising Chinese middle class and get investors to invest in the Midwest. The governor is building relationships with China. The exports of our goods is continuing to rise to China,” said Watkins.

According to Watkins, there are still several misconceptions that plague China.

“Every election year, China is cast out as the political boogeyman. We have gained much by doing business with China. We need to stress that far too many of us are ignorant about all things China. This is a relationship that cannot end in divorce,” said Watkins.  

However, if divorce does indeed occur, Watkins said the consequences will be dire.

“One of the big fears is that the Chinese economy is propping up the world economy. If they were to have an economic falter, it would drag all of us down. We’re inextricably linked,” said Watkins.

-Cameron Stewart

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