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Foreign Policy

China: The U.S. Vote Getter

Jun 22 , 2015

Presidents Xi and Obama will be meeting face-to face in Washington, DC this Fall and there is much for the two world leaders to discuss. These conversations are best done on a foundation of mutual respect, seeking strategies that are “win-win,” and enhancing peace and economic growth around the globe. Bashing each other for political gain is not helpful to develop the “people-to-people” connection needed as the 21st century unfolds.

This is even more critical as tension is at a boiling point between our respective countries over territorial rights in the South China Sea. The Sino-U.S. relationship is widely regarded as the most import bilateral relationship in the world today. Despite this, the Chinese ‘tar-and-feather’ routine will be rolled out once again by political candidates on both the left and the right during the upcoming election season.

Blaming China for our economic woes is a cynical sport for mining votes. Making China the “boogieman” diverts American voters’ attention on actions and inactions of our political leaders. In the 21st century, generating xenophobia in an attempt to scare up votes is perverse.  Anti-China rhetoric is old hat and though it may have proved effective in past political races, it needs to stop.

American elections need to be about adding and multiplying jobs  — not election year subtraction and division. We need political and government leaders to stop playing “Peking Duck” with China.  We simply cannot afford to have leaders who claim they will “go anywhere and do anything for jobs” and then avoid China for political expediency.

A Dome Magazine article points out we need to stop digging moats and begin to build bridges when it comes to the people of China. This political rhetoric does nothing to build job-producing relationships with what the IMF calls the world’s fastest growing large economy. It may play on American fears of American workers who have been rocked by our changing world the past 6 years.


Instead, America needs an aggressive plan that makes China’s rise and globalization work for us, not against us. In 2009, I laid out a detailed process for creating such a plan for the State of Michigan: “China Bridge, Michigan stop whining and start building.” Prior to the election and recent re-election of the State of Michigan’s Governor Snyder, there had been much complaining about China — with no development plan for finding ways to ride the China wave. In a day and age when ideas and jobs can and do move effortlessly around the globe, this is simply unacceptable. Snyder had the political courage to change this trend and it has paid off for Michigan with job creation and investment.

China can and must be part of the ingredients necessary to reinvent and revitalize America’s economy. It is clear that there is a push-pull effect in our relationship with China. There is no shared vision, no overall direction, no sensible agenda or plan to tap China for job gain in America. Creating economic fear is not a sustainable or beneficial strategy. We need leaders with global vision that help create American jobs. Real leaders don’t perpetuate fear — they produce results. Our government at the national, state, and local levels has an important role to play to building economic bridges with China. In an era where the Chinese continue to seek places to invest throughout the world, we should be bending over backward to make America an economic magnet for such investment.

Local And State Leaders Build Bridges

The Chicago Tribune recently reported: “Chinese investors will have huge sums to invest overseas in the next decade — as much as $3 trillion, according to an estimate by Liang Xinjun, CEO of Shanghai-based Fosun Group, a privately held insurance and investment conglomerate that is investing in food companies, luxury brands, entertainment companies and real estate worldwide.” This same article showed that some American political leaders “got it” when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: “Increasing opportunities for trade between Chicago businesses and their Chinese counterparts is critical to the continued growth of our city’s economy.”

Building relations pays off, and Chicago’s mayor has been wooing Chinese businesses and government officials.  Chinese developers — the Wanda Group, which is controlled by mainland China’s second richest man, Wang Jianlin, is planning to build an 88-story (eight is considered a lucky number in China) skyscraper with a five-star hotel with 250 rooms, 390 condominium units and about 9,000 square feet of shops. Construction, which will create over 2,000 construction jobs, begins in 2016 with a $900 million price tag. It is suggested there is more to come.

Crain’s Detroit Business points out, “Investment goes where it is welcome and stays where it is nurtured.”

Opportunity Knocks

Recently U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman were in Chicago for the 25th session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. Established in 1983, the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) is the primary forum for addressing bilateral trade matters and promoting commercial opportunities between the United States and China. Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, speaking at the JCCT summit emphasized, “China is committed to furthering cross-border investment and commerce.”

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker spoke on the importance of stronger U.S.-China economic ties at the summit saying: “The success of the U.S.-China commercial relationship is critical to global economic growth and stability. Our two markets are the largest on the planet – we account for nearly 35 percent of global GDP. Together, our populations total more than 1.6 billion people – just shy of a quarter of the planet. And combined U.S. and China trade in goods and services add up to about one-fifth of all international trade.”

U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Stefan Selig said at the conclusion of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) talks, “We are the two largest economies in the world that have never been so intertwined and connected than ever before.”  He continued, “US exports to China have created jobs domestically and China is currently America’s fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment.”

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson made it clear that building economic bridges with China is wise, proclaiming to Detroit and Michigan business leaders: “A growing Chinese economy is not something to be scared of, it’s something to see potential in, and Michigan and Detroit have a significant role to play.”

Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder has done more to build cultural, educational and economic bridges with China and its 1.3 billion new consumers than all his predecessors combined. His work has laid a strong foundation upon which to build a future. His focus on exporting Michigan goods and services around the globe while seeking direct foreign investment is paying dividends for Michigan families.

A recent article in The Diplomat pointed out, “China is an emerging investor in business abroad via overseas direct investment, and is also exploring options to invest in international financial markets. China became the third largest outbound direct investor in 2012 and, in conjunction with plans to reform its financial sector, is examining ways to potentially increase financial flows abroad as well.”

This trend has opportunity written all over it: America has much of what the Chinese want and need. As Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader that opened China to the world once proclaimed, “To get rich is glorious.”

With thoughtful leadership willing to develop “win-win” opportunities, America can ride the, “China wave” and create jobs and investment here at home. Elections are about choices and the future. If American voters choose wisely, we will stop the whining and start building bridges with China and other countries in ways that will make a better future for American families. Certainly a “win-win” strategy.

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