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Someone once wrote that if you keep a diary and look back at what you wrote 20 years ago, you often find the stuff you thought was peripheral actually turned out to have been the most important. For example, you may have filled pages mooning over a now-forgotten Ralph or Susie, and just noted in passing a job that began your professional career.

News is like that too.

We don’t always see what’s most important. Most of us, so far as I can tell, are so focused on the daily clown show in Washington, that we are paying little attention to tremors in our nation’s growing relationship with China.

blue car fueling up at gas pump
Mike Mozart / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When your biggest customer talks, smart companies listen. For car makers, that customer is China.

So when China recently announced it's preparing to ban vehicles powered by fossil fuels, auto executives around the world quickly took notice.

Russell Padmore, a BBC business reporter, joined Stateside to talk about the future of the auto industry, and he says China’s not alone.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Forget the notion that the Chinese are coming to the auto industry near you. They’re already here.

Geely has controlled Sweden’s Volvo for seven years now. Tencent Holdings owns a five percent stake in Elon Musk’s Tesla. Pacific Century Motors acquired Delphi’s Saginaw-based steering division to create Nexteer Automotive Corp. And Chinese companies spent $140 billion last year on mergers and acquisitions, second only to the United States.

Rick Snyder and Terry Gou shaking hands
Michigan Governor's Office

 


A lot is happening with Michigan’s business relationship with China these days.

Shortly after losing out to Wisconsin for a massive new Foxconn facility, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a major tax incentive package designed to attract Foxconn and other foreign corporations to the state. Now, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant is rumored to have plans for a smaller facility in Michigan after all. 

Wendell Brown teaching a group of Chinese people about American football.
Antoinette Brown

The family of a Detroit native and former Canadian Football League player is hoping for word soon on the outcome of his criminal trial in China.

Wendell Brown has been sitting in a Chinese jail since getting into a bar fight last September. He waited 10 months to get a trial. He's now awaiting the judge's verdict on his assault charge.

Wendell Brown teaching a group of Chinese people about American football
Antoinette Brown

Former Detroit high school football star and Canadian Football League player Wendell Brown faces trial today in China for assault.

The Ford Focus
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company will export vehicles from China to the U.S. for the first time starting in 2019.

The company announced Tuesday the plan to export the next-generation Focus from China rather than Mexico, as previously planned. Production of the Focus will phase out of Wayne, Michigan in mid-2018.

Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford's global operations, says the move will save the auto maker $1 billion, including $500 million from canceling a new plant in Mexico that was intended to build the Focus.

rosefirerising / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Michigan's farmers and growers are always looking for new and bigger markets for their products. The Michigan Farm Bureau thinks they should look at China, where there is growing interest in what Michigan's farms have to offer.

A sign on a Dow Chemical Company building
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The proposed merger of Midland-based Dow Chemical and DuPont has cleared another regulatory hurdle.

Brazilian officials are the latest to give their blessing to the $130 billion merger of the chemical industry giants. The recommendation by Brazilian regulators still must be approved by an administrative tribunal, which is largely a formality.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The proposed merger of Midland-based Dow Chemical and DuPont has cleared another regulatory hurdle.

Chinese regulators are giving the merger ‘conditional’ approval.   The condition is DuPont divest some of its research and development department, along with assets tied to pesticides and herbicides used in rice.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Last night, Gov. Rick Snyder officially opened a new center aimed at increasing business between Michigan and China.

The Michigan-China Innovation Center’s goal is to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Michigan. 

Snyder says he’s met with representatives of several Chinese companies in recent weeks. He sees the trading partnership improving.

“I hope it’s easier in some fashion over the longer term, but we’re seeing a continuation good business flow in both directions,” says Snyder.

American and Chinese flags
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

President Donald Trump wants U.S. automakers to build their vehicles in the United States. U.S. carmakers want him to ease up on upcoming emissions regulations.

That's the framework for the president's visit with auto leaders today in Ypsilanti. The visit comes right on the heels of Ford's announcement that its luxury Lincoln unit will start building SUVs in China with a local partner.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The proposed merger of Midland-based Dow Chemical and DuPont may soon clear a critical hurdle.

European regulators may be close to approving the $130 billion merger. The European Commission has until April to make its final decision.

Dow and DuPont officials have been working hard for months to convince European regulators to approve their merger. Those efforts may have finally paid off.

You may not have noticed, but Gov. Rick Snyder is in China this week, on what his administration is calling his sixth “investment” mission to the world’s newest economic superpower.

This particular trip is designed, the governor’s office says, to help establish Michigan’s global leadership in “autonomous vehicle technology,” which is industry-speak for cars that will drive themselves, at least to some extent.


wikimedia user McZusatz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

All through the presidential campaign, the issue of free trade has been bubbling away on the national front burner.

Much of the focus and campaign rhetoric has been on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The proposed trade deal among the United States, Canada and ten nations in the Asia-Pacific region could cover 40% of America’s imports and exports.

We’re in the first year of a two-year ratification period.

Donald Trump has bashed the TPP at every turn. Hillary Clinton once praised the TPP as the “gold standard” of trade deals, but has backed off of that support, nudged that way by the staunch opposition of one-time opponent Bernie Sanders.

Economist Marina von Neumann Whitman joined us today to take a deeper look at the future of free trade policy in 2017.

Courtesy of Sue Nichols

 

Jack Liu of Michigan State University has spent some two decades studying pandas and people in a remote corner of China. His work has yielded powerful lessons in sustainability.

Liu is a human-environment scientist and a sustainability scholar at MSU, where he directs the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.

He joined us today to talk about his panda research and what it means for people outside of the remote Wolong Nature Reserve.

Courtesy of Brian Connors

The Next Idea

China is Michigan’s third largest export market. A new nonprofit is up and running, planning to encourage more Chinese investment here.

Brian Connors is the executive director of the Michigan-China Innovation Center.

Connors sat down with us today to talk about how he plans to attract the attention of Chinese investors and why China is such a valuable business partner for Michigan.

Wikimedia user Brian Ammon / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

When looking at the modern world of innovation or business, you really can’t ignore China.

The country’s influence is huge, but interacting with Chinese companies, educators or officials can present a tough challenge for native English speakers: Mandarin Chinese is so fundamentally different from English, especially in tonal inflections.

Catherine Ryu is a Michigan State University researcher who is working with a team of students to develop a new game that could help English speakers learn Mandarin.

Jindong Zhang, Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

There's just something about the panda that captures our imagination.

The recent birth of panda twins at the National Zoo caused much excitement, although that was tempered somewhat when the smallest cub died last month.

And pandas have captured the interest of a research team from Michigan State University, which has discovered that pandas truly "march to the beat of their own drum."

According to Brian Connors, China has already invested over $3 billion in Michigan’s economy, and that is expected to increase over the next decade.
flickr user Osrin / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

    

It has been a wild ride on Wall Street this week and it's only Tuesday.

On Monday, the Dow plummeted more than 1,000 points before closing the day down 3.6%.

Today, investors were in a buying mood and the Dow went up. 

media.ford.com

The economy in China may be slowing, but Ford says its plans for future sales increases are still on track.

Ford of China head Dave Schock says the days of "frantic" double-digit GDP growth are likely over. But he says the government plans to transition the economy to a 7% rate of growth, which means plenty of opportunities to increase car sales. 

Ford is pinning its hopes on so-called Tier 3 through Tier 6 cities in China. Those are small to mid-sized cities (a small city in China can still have several million residents.) 

Director Clover Adams and Deputy Commissioner Xia Qianbao of the Ocean & Fisheries Bureau from the Jiangsu Province signing a Memorandum of Understanding.
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Officials from Michigan and China plan to work together on developing advancements in fisheries and aquaculture.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development last week in Lansing hosted a delegation from the province of Jiangsu.

Vacant lot in Detroit.
University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Gov. Rick Snyder’s Asia trip, the financial status of Michigan’s schools, and a new plan to sell Detroit land.


Rick Snyder / Flickr

Governor Snyder leaves for China today on his fourth trade mission to Asia. Tom Watkins has spent many years, in many different roles, campaigning for stronger ties between China and Michigan.

Watkins says Governor Snyder has two goals for this trip: promote Michigan goods and services, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI). China has plans to invest $1 trillion around the world, so it is important for Governor Snyder to attract FDI in order to create new jobs and opportunities within the state, says Watkins.

Watkins says there is a chance to develop a good relationship with China, as Chinese car companies have set up several R&D plants in southeast Michigan.. There are also a number of international students from China at state universities here. But Watkins warns it's not quick or easy work. "Doing business in China is not an economic one night stand," said Watkins. "You can’t just do one trip there.” Listen to our conversation with Watkins below:


Today on Stateside:

  • Road funding is once again being discussed in Lansing, but Chris Kolb says we need to think beyond just fixing roads and bridges. Find out where he thinks the state should invest more of its money.
  • A good meal can become a great meal if the restaurant has the right ambiance. For example, good music can improve the overall experience. But what about the other way around? Interlochen Public Radio’s David Cassleman talks about a conductor and chef who are teaming up in Traverse City to find out.
  • Ypsilanti singer-songerwriter and Civil War history buff Matt Jones has a new album out called “The Deep Enders.” See what he has to say about his Civil War influences and song writing for “The Deep Enders.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder's upcoming trip to China to coax companies to expand in Michigan won't be cheap, but economic development officials say the money is well spent and producing results.

The governor's last investment mission to Asia cost $251,000 and a concurrent trade trip totaled $173,000. Expenses included flights, lodging, other travel, meals, gifts and receptions.

  Nearly $219,000 of the bill for Snyder's trip was covered with money Michigan receives from American Indian casinos' gambling profits.

User: Robert Heese / Flickr

Global automakers look to China to rev up their global sales, but growth in China's car sales slowed again in September. 

According to The Detroit Free Press, sales in passenger vehicles in China rose 6.4% in September from a year earlier, slowing from 8% in August and 13.9% in May. 

John McElroy is an auto analyst and host of the Autoline Daily webcast. He says the numbers are direct indicators of the economic health of the Chinese economy, which seems to be cooling down.

Center for Zoo Animal Welfare

Top officials from the Detroit Zoological Society are headed to Beijing, where they’ll lead a workshop for senior staff from China’s three largest zoos.

CEO Ron Kagan is touring the zoos in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to scope out current animal care practices there.

Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter says Kagan will brief the team on his findings in Beijing, so they have a good sense of where the Chinese zoos stand going into the four-day workshop.

Since Detroit filed for bankruptcy last summer, there have been lots of stories going around about major Chinese money pouring into city real estate.The headlines tend to read something like: “China is buying up Detroit.”

In truth, there’s not much hard evidence to support that kind of dramatic claim.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s Mardi Gras time. But there’s a warning for people who want to ‘Let the Good Times Roll’.

People will go to great lengths to grab a necklace of Mardi Gras beads. But the Ecology Center’s Jeff Gearhart says they should think twice.

The Ann Arbor environmental group tested beads from different sources and found many contained high amounts of highly toxic substances,

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