Editorial

Yin and yang: Biden didn’t see Snyder’s China

December 6, 2013
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Vice President Joe Biden’s quick stop in Beijing during a six-day Asian trek last week seemed in contrast to Gov. Rick Snyder’s 10-day trip through China in September.

China’s acceptance one year ago into the World Trade Organization certainly has increased the level of interest in one of the world’s most populous countries, but Biden returned with cautionary remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, according to reports by Forbes, which quoted Biden predicting that the Chinese transition to a more open economy will be a “difficult, difficult transition.”

Conversely, Gov. Snyder touted the opportunity to build on personal relationships after his third tour, and focused precisely on the opportunities for Detroit’s revival and for both the agricultural and automotive sectors of Michigan’s economy.

Grand Rapids’ regional businesses have created relationships with Chinese companies that have, in the past, been as good or as bad as any of the international headlines reported. But most of such reports by the Business Journal date prior to the WTO association. Amway Asia is among the leaders of the Michigan pack; the division consistently shows the company’s greatest sales revenues and consecutive years of growth.

Even before Snyder left the Mitten State for China, Grand Rapids Business Journal reported Sept. 1 that two additional regional companies were looking at the Chinese market as a significant enhancement: Koeze Co., well-known for its nuts, coffee, candy and other gourmet food, and Cherry Central, a growers’ cooperative in Traverse City. Both companies worked through the state’s recently established MiSpringboard program for technical and professional services to establish their paths to China. All Michigan Varnum offices are participating as a MiSpringborad co-creator to provide free legal advice.

Despite Biden’s caution in regard to intellectual property and trade secrets, C. Peter Theut, partner in the Detroit-based law firm Butzel Long and chair of its global trade and transaction practice, has long advised in Business Journal reporting that the time for China is now.

Michigan already is seeing tremendous interest from Chinese investors, particularly in Detroit real estate. Snyder repeated that message to Chinese media in September; CNN Money last week listed Detroit No. 4 on its Top U.S. Cities for Chinese homebuyers.

There may be another harbinger for future trade and joint investments: Justin Knapp, the director of Ogilvy Public Relations’ Grand Rapids office, China Outbound Practice, noted in the Business Journal Oct. 11 thatMSU has more Chinese students than any other university in the United States, with 3,000 scholars.

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