Auto/Economy
2:35 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

The Michigan-China Connection (an audio documentary)

Cars, agriculture, tourism, it’s all fair game for people who want Michigan to tap into the Chinese market.

But what does that really mean and who really stands to benefit?

Governor Rick Snyder recently led a Michigan delegation to China.

He says strong economic ties between Michigan and what is now the world’s fastest growing economy are essential to Michigan’s economic growth.

Part 1

With 1.3 billion people, China is seen as a largely untapped market, and Michigan’s economic leaders want a piece of it. Governor Rick Snyder went to China to start the process of building stronger economic ties between Michigan and China.

Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton also traveled to China, to bring us stories on the how the auto industry is a fairing there.

China’s car sales are slowing, but China is still the largest car market in the world.

Ford got a late start in China.  Now, it’s trying to catch up.

The company is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new plants and expanding models and dealerships.

In this segment of the documentary, Tracy shares stories about the potential economic ties between Michigan and China.

We also hear about how the car culture is playing out in China and how it is adding to the way the country is developing.

And we talk about the focus of Governor Snyder’s trip to China.

Part 2

General Motors now sells more cars in China that it does in the United States. In a few years, it’s likely that will be the case for Ford Motor Company, too.

Selling cars in China takes a different approach than it does in the U.S.

Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton found that out when she visited a Ford dealership in Shanghai.

We also hear about the soaring rates of car ownership in China’s biggest cities. The growing rates are causing huge problems, from days-long traffic jams to choking smog.

Even car companies say the trend is not sustainable.

General Motors says one solution could be to reinvent the vehicle.

We hear about the Miao (pronounced mee-ow) the Jiao, (gee-ow) and the Shiao (She-ow), three cute, tiny cars with a serious mission.

And we talk to Rebecca Linland, the Director of Automotive Research at HIS Automotive in this segment.

Part 3

China isn’t the only growing economy in the world, Brazil and India are also growing quickly.

But China is getting lots of attention right now.

In this segment we talk with Kenneth Lieberthal, the Director of the John L. Thornton China Center and senior fellow in foreign policy and global economy and development at Brookings.

We also hear a report from Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton about one of the University of Michigan's newest programs. She met with Chinese and American students at the Joint Institute with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

And we talk with Wei Shen  at a US-China networking conference.

Shen is the Managing Director of Bridge Connect. One of the questions we ask Shen is how does Michigan stand to benefit from economic ties to China, and why should someone who works outside of the automotive sector care about economic ties to China?

And finally, Pure Michigan in China? Not quite, say Michigan officials.

Even if a China Pure Michigan campaign isn’t in the works, there are still a lot of opportunities for Michigan businesses in China and we’ve only brushed the surface over the course of this documentary.

We can’t say it enough, with 1.3 billion people in China, there is a lot of economic opportunity.