Editorial

Negotiations with Chinese leaders have direct impact on West Michigan, state

September 25, 2015
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While the start of ArtPrize held center stage last week, the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping for a meeting of tech executives in Seattle and political meetings in Washington, D.C, did not escape the attention of West Michigan business owners.

It was an event with profound implications for area companies.

An example of the impact is illustrated by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, which shows that more than 90 percent of member companies are doing business in China, directly or indirectly through subsidiaries and partners, according to Executive Director Dixie Anderson — and such business is a day-and-night difference to just 10 years ago.

As has been noted a number of times by national economists and (some) politicians, the business dynamic has flipped: Area companies now are selling products to the Chinese — products manufactured in Michigan and many other states.

The Chinese are increasingly investing in and doing business in the United States. That level of business certainly represents many more than the locally famous Amway. And among those now doing business in the region is Dicastal North America, a North American business entity created by Chinese-based CiTiC Dicastal Co. Ltd. last year and opening a plant in Greenville that will provide 300 new jobs and a $140 million capital investment.

Gov. Rick Snyder last week was among the U.S. leaders who traveled to Seattle to discuss economic development opportunities, include agribusiness, building and industry energy efficiency, clean air and renewable energy technologies, modern electrical grids, tourism and clean transportation.

Snyder signed agreements that included a focus on developing autonomous, connected and low-emission vehicles.

That followed Snyder’s trade-mission visit last month to China, where he met with several Chinese business and political leaders.

Grand Rapids Business Journal reports this week on the World Affairs Council’s ninth China Town Hall, which features Henry Levine, former deputy assistant secretary of commerce for Asia.

Levine’s lecture at the University Club Oct. 5 also will include a discussion by a panel of Chinese experts to be broadcast to audiences in 70 locations. One of those panelists is former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, who also will be in Grand Rapids for the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan’s annual dinner Nov. 4.

Paulson’s new book, “Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower,” was released early this year. Paulson moderated the discussion last week in Seattle between 15 Chinese and American CEOs during President Xi’s visit.

Levine notes in the Business Journal report how the flow of Chinese investment into the U.S. will surpass the flow of investment going the other way, as exemplified by the Dicastal Co. Ltd. investment last year.

The Business Journal notes the implications of this international news of U.S. and Chinese discussions have a very direct economic ripple in West Michigan.

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