china

Last week I had occasion to mention the famous author Upton Sinclair, and his now-forgotten campaign for governor of California in 1934. Afterwards, a friend told me, “I’ll bet that’s the last time you bring that up for about ten years.“

More likely, 20, I thought. Well, guess what. Here we go again. The reason I mentioned Sinclair was that his campaign was one of the first examples of moneyed interests spending lavishly to destroy a candidacy with outrageously false advertising, something we‘ve seen happen many times since.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden says good paying manufacturing jobs are vital to the U.S. economy and the American Dream of home ownership and upward mobility.

Biden made his comments following a tour of American Seating Company in Grand Rapids. The company has been making seats for busses, trains and stadiums in West Michigan for more than a century.

“It’s not the only source of good paying jobs but I see no way in which we can meet that American commitment to that dream unless we once again reestablish ourselves as the manufacturing hub of the world with high end products,” Biden said.

Image by John Klein Wilson / Michigan Radio

As 2011 comes to an end, we look back at some of the economic and housing stories we covered in the last year. The housing slide slowed in the last year, but Michigan was still near the top of the home foreclosure list. The decrease in home values continued to have grave implications for local governments reliant on property taxes (One caller described the fall in housing prices in his six-word story, "$80,000 to $11,000, Northwest Detroit").

In six words or less, here's how people categorized their housing experiences in Michigan:

And here's a small sampling of Michigan Radio stories about the economy and housing:

American politicians are vowing to fight new Chinese tariffs on large U.S. made cars and SUVs.    

In 2010, the U.S. won a Chinese tire-dumping complaint before the World Trade Organization. 

China has complained about U.S. poultry dumping.  The U.S. is investigating whether China subsidizes solar panels. 

Now the fight is over cars.  Republican Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas heads a trade subcommittee. 

Ashley Dace / Geograph

Michigan Senator Carl Levin says the United States needs to crack down on counterfeit electronic parts coming from China.

Levin says thousands of fake parts have been discovered in the U.S. military’s supply stream.  Some missiles even had to be stripped apart to remove counterfeit parts from China.

He says it’s dangerous – and China won’t do anything to stop it.

Levin has proposed an amendment to require inspections of parts coming from China.

He says it’s not part of a China-bashing campaign. 

Philip Jagenstedt / Flickr

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has been reporting recently on a series of stories about Michigan's evolving relationship with China.

From cars to crops to hats, these sometimes unusual Chinese connections could have a big impact on the state's economic future.

Here is a brief roundup, in case you missed any of the stories.

October 11: Selling American cars, China-style

Chinese dealerships with their aggressive sales staffs, shiny floors, and canned music may evoke their American counterparts, but Tracy Samilton says U.S. automakers are trying to cash in on China's booming demand for cars by tailoring their approach to suit local tastes and attitudes.

From working to maintain a solid brand reputation (the opinions of family and colleagues is probably the most important factor for Chinese car buyers), to explaining features to inexperienced drivers, Detroit car companies are betting on China as a key to their futures.

October 11: Tiny cars to tackle big problems

Megacities like Beijing and Shanghai already struggle with dense smog and days-long traffic jams clogging roads and highways, but  China's voracious appetite for cars and steadily increasing urban population only promise to make things worse.

Tracy Samilton reports that, among other solutions, General Motors' China division is experimenting with small electric vehicles that seat two, roll on two wheels, and can drive themselves, not to mention take up one fifth the parking space needed for a regular car.

October 14: Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

While Ford is currently working hard to be a top competitor the Chinese auto market, they lag behind other international automakers including General Motors.

Tracy Samilton tells us that part of the reason for this gap can be traced back to hats.

More specifically, in the early 1990s, Ford lost out on a contract to supply Chinese officials with a fleet of limousines because the unusual body shape of the Taurus knocked the hats right of the dignitaries' heads.

October 23: Exchanging students and changing perspectives

Engineering students in Shanghai and Ann Arbor are learning more than what is printed in their textbooks thanks to a University of Michigan Joint Institute program that sends Michigan students to study in China and brings Chinese students here to do the same.

Students from both sides of the program told Tracy Samilton about local hospitality, the allure of college football, and that a big part of the experience is about learning from their host culture and not just in the classroom.

November 7: From Michigan's fields to Chinese dinner tables

Detroit cars are certainly a major component in Michigan's economic connection with China, but as Tracy Samilton reports, there is also an increasing Chinese demand for Michigan crops and other food products.

Chinese livestock producers use Michigan grown soybeans and wheat as feed, but consumers are also developing a taste for Michigan foods from blueberries to cereal to baby food, bolstered in part by U.S. safety and quality standards.

November 8: Pure Michigan in China?

Both the Michigan tourism industry and the state capitol are hoping to make Michigan a destination for international tourists, especially for those  from China.

While some, including Governor Snyder have big plans to attract Chinese visitors by showcasing Michigan's natural beauty and automotive history, others say that most Chinese people probably haven't even heard of Michigan, and as Tracy Samilton reports, bad translations are not helping.

And an audio documentary...

As a way to bring these stories together, a team of Michigan Radio producers created an audio documentary on the Michigan-China connection that features content from all of these stories along with interviews with Kenneth Lieberthal, the Director of the John L. Thornton China Center, Wei Shen, Managing Director of Bridge Connect, and Rebecca Linland, the Director of Automotive Research at HIS Automotive.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s agriculture industry is busy expanding in China.  But the same can’t be said for the state’s tourism industry.  At least not yet.  A million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the U.S. this year.  But only a relative handful will come to the Great Lakes State. 

Fran Wiltgen helps her son Joe, run his business, Joe's Bar and Grill, in South Haven, Michigan.

China is already playing a role in Michigan’s effort to diversify its economy. The country’s 1.3 billion people don’t want just cars from Michigan companies, they also want Michigan foods.

From baby food to blueberries, Michigan is tapping into a new and profitable market in China.

Want to know the real reason Ford isn’t one of the biggest car companies in China right now? 

Hats. 

That's right. David McKee says it’s because of hats. Here’s the story. 

In 1992, Ford Motor Company sent McKee to China to head a Ford components company. At the time, very few ordinary Chinese owned cars. Cars were a perk for bureaucrats. 

The U.S. Senate will soon vote on a bill that would punish China, and other countries, for manipulating their currency. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, has been leading the charge on the legislation.

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.   

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

There's much that's familiar at Shanghai Dongchang Fude Auto Sales and Service. There’s the piped in music -- the salespeople hanging out near the front entrance, waiting to grab the next walk-in customer., and the lineup of shiny new cars on the floor. 

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says it’s time to get tough with countries that flout international trade rules.

She’s pushing a three-part legislative package, the American Competitiveness Plan, that aims to crack down on those countries.

Stabenow singles out China as the worst offender when it comes to manipulating international trade rules to its advantage. But the U.S. government has generally been reluctant to take action.

I'm on assignment in China following Governor Snyder's trade mission, and I'm sharing my thoughts as I travel. Feel free to write me back in the comments below.

Nearing the end - Friday, September 30

The Governor's trade mission is coming to an end, and so is my trip to China.

I won't miss the smog and pollution, either in Shanghai (bad) or Beijing (worse).

But it has truly been too short a trip to get more than a glimpse of everything that is happening with China's economy, its auto industry, and its cultural and population shifts.

Frank Langfitt in Shanghai and Louisa Lim in Beijing surely have two of the biggest, most exciting beats in public radio.  This fly-in reporter leaves the country in their incredibly capable hands.

Adventure travel

My adventures with taxis continued.

I am starting to take this a little personally.

Arriving back in Shanghai from Beijing, I got in the long queue to get a taxi to my downtown Pudong hotel.

I decided I'd be a discerning and demanding customer this time around.  I rejected several taxis that had no seat belt in the back.  But when I found a taxi that was suitably equipped, and showed the driver the address to which I wanted to be taken, he shook his head, and drove up to grab the fellow who was behind me in the line.

The next taxi cab driver whose cab had seat belts did the same thing.  I asked  the airport employee who was in charge of the queue to help, but he spoke no English.  Nor did the first ten or so people in line.

Paying it forward

Finally, however, an angel arrived at the queue.  Deserine Lim, fluent English-speaker and rescuer of helpless American travelers.  She looked at my hotel address and explained that the taxi drivers didn't want me because it was too close, and they wanted a bigger fare.  Ouch.

Then, without my even thinking to ask, she suggested I split a cab with her.  She'd drop me off at my hotel, and continue on to her destination.

I'm not a Tennessee Williams fan for nothing.  I, too, have always relied on the kindness of strangers.  I got in the cab gratefully.

My rescuer is a native of Singapore, she told me, visiting Shanghai just for a day on business.  But she knows the town well, and told me what shops to go to near my hotel, what restaurants to haunt.  We discussed American politics.

When we arrived at my hotel, I paid the fare, and since it was clear her favor to me was going to cost her, both in terms of time and money, I tried to give her some money to cover the extra distance.

She adamantly refused to take it.

So, I shall have to content myself with paying it forward some day.

Ms. Lim is Assistant General Manager of OSIM, a global provider of personal, health and convenience products headquartered in Singapore.  OSIM is a co-owner of Brookstone, a company that provides such products in the U.S.

Thanks, Deserine.  You're a peach.

Next stops before home

Next stop for me:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I'll visit the Joint Institute between SJTU and the University of Michigan.

I also plan to go to a shopping mall with my SJTU interpreter, Paul (Kang Yiping) to ask people about transportation issues.

Then, another interview with a Ford China official, to learn more about the company's strategy to ride the next wave of demand for vehicles in the country.

And tomorrow morning, I'll be on a non-stop flight from Shanghai to Detroit.

They say the jet lag is a lot worse coming back.

Michigan Radio, don't call me.  I'll call you.

Arrived in Beijing - Wednesday, September 28:

I am in Beijing.

I arrived on the fourth consecutive day of a smog health advisory in the city.  Children are not supposed to play outdoors, and people with chronic health conditions are being urged to stay inside. Even if you are healthy, the smog is very irritating to your eyes and throat.

Michigan has never seemed cleaner. Even the worst Ozone Action Day in Michigan in August can't hold a candle to this.

Shanghai was windy while I was there earlier in the week. We need a good strong breeze to get this stuff out of the city, so people can breathe.

The Chinese government knows it has a potential crisis on its hands, as more people move into the cities, and more of them purchase cars.  That's why the government adopted a five year plan to vastly increase the number of electric cars in China.

The big problem with that is infrastructure.

user: Jakob Montrasio / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder this week embarked on a trade mission to Asia. He’ll be visiting China, Japan, and South Korea. This is the first visit to China by a  Michigan Governor since the Engler administration. Here to talk about the what Michigan can gain from a relationship with China is Tom Watkins, Former State Superintendent who is currently a business and educational consultant in the US and China.

 

Governor Rick Snyder said he will return to China in the next year, after completing his first trade mission in that country.

In the meantime, he said there’s a lot of follow-up to do in Michigan, to develop brand-new relationships with Chinese business leaders.

Governor Snyder spent a day in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and a day in Shanghai, the country’s international commerce center.

He said he was pleasantly surprised at how interested Chinese business leaders seem in closer business ties with Michigan. He said one possibility is getting Chinese mining companies, who want to expand overseas, to take a look at mining copper and other deposits in the U.P.

"It’s another export from our state, and the main thing is we do it in an environmentally conscious way and we put in the structure to do that," said Snyder.

Governor Snyder also highlighted his new “Global Michigan Initiative,” which he says should help create jobs in the state.

The initiative is designed to encourage talented immigrants to settle in Michigan.

The Global Michigan Initiative began two months ago.

While speaking in Shanghai, Snyder said the initiative will expand over the next few years to include cultural programs, more trade missions, and a visa program.

"There are a number of states that are unfortunately discouraging immigration, and I believe it should be the opposite, and the empirical support is there by encouraging immigration you actually create jobs for people in your community," said Snyder. " It’s a job creator."

The Governor is now on his way to South Korea, after a two-day stay in China.

This is Snyder’s first trade mission, and he says it was easier to make a pitch for the state’s positive business environment than he expected.

That’s because some of the Chinese business leaders he met with had already done some homework on Michigan.

"The most pleasant surprise was just the positive response of people in China and businesses in particular, that many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business, and I was happy to see that they mentioned tax reform is a good reason for them to come, having a balanced budget is a major item," said Snyder.

The Governor will be in Seoul next, where he will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the Province will work together to establish trade.

Snyder will return to Michigan on Saturday.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Governor Snyder on trade mission in Asia

Governor Rick Snyder and a delegation of business and government officials left for Asia over the weekend. On Sunday, the governor and the delegation met with Japanese officials in Tokyo. From Governor Snyder's press release:

Governor Rick Snyder today met with Governor Yukiko Kada of Shiga Prefecture, Japan, to discuss mutual interests in promotion of business investment, tourism and job creation in Michigan and Shiga and protection and preservation of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan and the Great Lakes, the world’s largest group of freshwater lakes.

The Governor's office say the Michigan-Shiga partnership "is one of the oldest sister state relationships between the United States and Japan."

Snyder will head to Beijing, China on Tuesday and to Shanghai on Thursday. While there, the governor's office says Snyder and the Michigan delegation will "meet with senior government officials, executives of some of China's largest companies and a number of Michigan companies that operate there."

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is in China covering the trip. You can read about her trip by following her travelogue.

New state aid formula for Michigan schools

Changes in how state education officials calculate per-pupil aid to public schools could mean an overall decline in state school aid. The Detroit News reports officials have changed how they count attendance numbers:

The number of students counted in classrooms during the fall Count Day next week will be worth 90 percent of state aid, rather than 75 percent as in past years. A winter count in February will be worth 10 percent instead of 25 percent.

The change in the state formula was prompted by research that showed as student enrollment continued to decline statewide, the state was paying for students counted in the spring who were no longer there in the fall.

Under the new formula, districts with falling enrollment stand to lose money, while those adding students each school year will get more cash from the state.

Overall, the state's public schools could receive $12.6 million less in school aid this year because of the change.

Michigan National Guardsmen head for Afghanistan

1,200 members of the Michigan National Guard leave home today to make their way to Afghanistan's Konduz Province, reports the Detroit Free Press:

Family and friends are saying farewell this evening to members of units of the 125th Infantry.

The Headquarters Company gets a send-off at Grand Blanc High School. Wyoming-based Company C gets a send-off at Grand Valley Armory, Bay City-based Company F gets a send-off at Dow Diamond in Midland and Big Rapids-based Company D gets a send-off at the Big Rapids Armory.

Detroit-based Company A gets a send-off at the Detroit Light Guard Armory.

Trey Ratcliff / Flickr

Tomorrow, Governor Rick Snyder heads off to Asia with a delegation of Michigan political leaders and business officials on a trade mission.

He'll spend a week traveling to Japan, China, and South Korea.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton will travel with the Governor and report on the stops in Shanghai and and Beijing.

Samilton reported on Governor Snyder's goals for the trip:

The ultimate goal is creating more jobs in the state.  But the Governor has been careful to downplay expectations of new jobs right away. 

 "In terms of specific deals to be announced," Snyder says, "I don’t have high expectations there.  This is more about starting the relationships and then looking six months, a year out, after subsequent meetings and followup and discussions, will there be actual investment or will there be more exports.

So, how much?

We asked our Facebook fans what they wanted to know about Snyder's trade mission.

Many were curious to know how much is being spent on the trip. 

Samilton put this question to Michael Shore at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Here's his response:

  • The trade mission costs will come either from contributions to the Michigan Economic Development foundation, a non-profit that supports economic development in Michigan through corporate contributions, or from MEDC corporate revenues, which derive from sources other than the state general fund. No taxpayer dollars are being spent for those traveling on behalf of the State of Michigan.

MEDC officials followed up that e-mail with this:

  • Local officials and other non-state of Michigan people going on the trip are responsible for paying their own way. The cost of the trip will be disclosed after the trade mission.

So the cost is to be determined, but they wanted to make clear that "no taxpayer dollars [will be] used to fund the State of Michigan official delegation, which includes the Governor."

Other trade trips by Michigan Governors

The last Michigan Governor to visit China was former-Governor John Engler.

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm never made a trip to the country, though she did take many trade trips, according to Crain's Detroit Business:

...Jennifer Granholm was active in going abroad and led 13 overseas trade missions to 10 countries, including Japan and South Korea.

Economic Policy Institute

A report by the Economic Policy Institute looked at the growing trade deficit between the U.S. and China and its effect on jobs.

The group found the trade deficit with China has been a "prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment."

From the report:

Between 2001 and 2010, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced 2.8 million jobs, 1.9 million (69.2 percent) of which were in manufacturing. The 1.9 million manufacturing jobs eliminated or displaced due to trade with China represents nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced between China’s entry into WTO and 2010.

The report finds that the number of Michigan jobs displaced by the trade deficit with China totaled 79,800. That accounts for 1.75 percent of total employment in the state in that time period.

Despite being a heavy manufacturing state, Michigan was not the hardest hit state by the trade imbalance.

From the report:

Jobs displaced due to growing deficits with China exceeded 2.2% of total employment in the 10 hardest-hit states (i.e., jobs lost or displaced as a share of total state employment): New Hampshire (19,700, 2.84%), California (454,600, 2.74%), Massachusetts (88,600, 2.73%), Oregon (47,900, 2.71%), North Carolina (107,800, 2.61%) Minnesota (70,700, 2.61%), Idaho (17,400, 2.54%), Vermont (7,800, 2.37%), Colorado (55,800, 2.30%), and Rhode Island (11,800, 2.24%).

The report concludes, "the U.S.-China trade relationship needs a fundamental change. Addressing the exchange rate policies and labor standards issues in the Chinese economy are important first steps."

Governor Snyder will travel on his first trade mission later this month.  The Governor will travel to Japan, China, and Korea, to encourage Asian companies to invest and expand in Michigan. 

Snyder says the China part of his trip in particular is long overdue. 

Snyder will be the first Michigan governor to go to China since the Engler administration.

He says Chinese companies may not be aware that a lot has changed for the good in the state since then, like the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, and a new approach to regulation.

The other day, Gov. Rick Snyder’s office announced he would be going to China next month. Actually, he will be going to both China and Japan, on a whirlwind, week-long trip that will begin with his attending a trade association meeting in Tokyo.

This will be a high-powered trip. Along with him, the governor will be taking Mike Finney, the director of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, known as MEDC; the state agriculture director, and four other economic development officials.

The reason for the trip, the governor’s communications director said, was to talk about why investment in Michigan is a good idea, and also to promote our state’s farm products.

Politicians often get criticized for taking junkets abroad -- sometimes rightly so. But not only is this trip a good idea, it is terribly necessary and way overdue.  In Toledo, just to our south, Chinese businessmen have spent millions to buy land along the Maumee riverfront, which they plan to develop for a variety of uses.

China Daze

Jun 28, 2011

In many ways, the Toledo area just south of the border is more like Michigan than Ohio. It features an aging industrial city based on the automotive economy and suffering from its decline.

Beyond that are leafy suburbs, and then smaller towns, farms, and a significant agricultural sector. Yet there is one way in which Toledo is very different from us. The mayor and the chamber of commerce have been actively and aggressively courting China.

And their efforts are paying off. Earlier this year, the Chinese investment firm Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. bought a restaurant complex for more than $2 million dollars. Then this month, they paid the cash-strapped city even more to buy sixty-nine acres of land in what is known as the Marina District, along the Maumee River.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In a statement today, the Dalai Lama said he intends to step aside as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

He said he is doing so because Tibetans now have freely elected representatives, representatives who are also in exile, who can speak for them.

From the Dalai Lama's statement:

Today, within the framework of the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, the Kalon Tripa, the political leadership, and the people’s representatives are directly elected by the people. We have been able to implement democracy in exile that is in keeping with the standards of an open society.

As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.

More signs that China's economy is growing.

The Associated Press reports:

General Motors says it sold more cars and trucks in China last year than it did in the U.S. for the first time in its 102-year history.

The company sold 2.35 million vehicles in China. That's about 136,000 more than it sold in the U.S.

The AP report says GM sold 2.35 million vehicles in China - 136,000 more vehicles than it sold in the U.S. in 2010.

The country's population is 4 times bigger than the U.S. population (according to World Bank numbers):

  • China's population: 1,331,460,000
  • U.S. population: 307,006,550

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