You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, May 31, 2013 : noon

U.S. relationship with China could prove most important of 21st century

By Tom Watkins


Gov. Rick Snyder participates in a roundtable discussion with business executives from China's Sichuan Province, Michigan's sister-state, in this September 2012 photo.

As the Who's-Who of Michigan's top business professionals, government leaders, corporate CEO's, entrepreneurs and veteran regional champions gather this week on Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Regional Chamber- Mackinac Policy Conference - they ought to be looking over their shoulders.

What happens in China, does not stay in China. Global happenings impact us right here in "Pure Michigan."

We need to pay attention as China returns economically and militarily to a historical position of strength. It must be noted, China had the world's largest economy, 18 out of the past 20 centuries.

More than 170 years ago, the military genius and ruthless dictator Napoleon said "Let China sleep; when she wakes she will shake the world.” Well clearly during the last 30 years, China has shaken off the century of humiliation, the hardship of the Great Leap Forward and the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and are wide-awake and on a roll today.

The China-United States Exchange Foundation, a non-government and non-profit organization based in Hong Kong seeks to foster a strengthened and improved relationship between China and the United States under the leadership of Tung CheeHwa, vice chairman of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and founder and chairman of the foundation recently released a report: "U.S.-China Economic Relations in the next Ten Years."

It should be mandatory reading for government and business leaders.

The report concludes that Beijing and Washington share the desire to “establish a pattern of secure, high-quality sustainable growth and employment for their people.”

It could be argued in the early days of the normalization of the relations between China and the U.S. that the China bridge was more of a one-way span in China's favor, which certainly is not true today.

Chinese investment in the U.S. is at an all-time high. According to the Heritage Foundation, total Chinese investment in the U.S. since 2005 stands at $54 billion, and is expected to significantly grow throughout the next decade.

According to the Asia Society the Chinese will be seeking overseas investment opportunities between $1 to $2 trillion dollars during the next decade, and Michigan and America need to be aggressive about securing a chunk of this Chinese investment.

Gov. Rick Snyder has set the table for attracting foreign direct investment that creates both wealth and jobs here at home.

"Michigan’s business community now includes more than 50 major Chinese companies that have invested more than $1 billion in our state and growing," recounted Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

As our new immigrant and business friendly governor, Snyder — who has traveled to China twice as governor, with a third trip planned for later this year to build the win-win relationships that grow jobs — likes to say: "Michigan is open for business and warmly welcomes you."

Snyder is seeking foreign direct investment in our state and wants to export our agricultural products, technology know-how and other goods and services around the globe. He understands Michigan is two beautiful peninsulas and we are not an island in this global, knowledge economy where ideas and jobs can and do effortlessly move around the globe.

As the report "U.S.-China Economic Relations in the next 10 Years," spells out, during the course of next decade this important economic relationship has the potential to globally create enormous economic opportunities and millions of jobs, as well as public good.

The report was released at the headquarters of the Asia Society with such luminaries and old China hands as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, on hand to discuss potential areas for increased cooperation between the two powers.

Clearly, China and the United States hold the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century. Moving forward, all major issues impacting the world will intersect at the corner of Beijing and Washington, D.C. How these issues are managed will impact not only the people of China and The U.S., but all of humanity.

Understanding the importance of building mutual trust, our respective leaders — President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama are scheduled to meet June 8 and 9 at Sunnylands in California, a famous retreat southeast of Los Angeles.

With thoughtful leadership at the local, state and national level, China's continual rise need not come at our demise.

Tom Watkins served the citizens of Michigan as state mental health director and state superintendent of schools. He is a US/China business and educational consultant. He can be reached at



Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 8:21 a.m.

China recently hacked US weapons systems and Watkins is suggesting that we get buddy-buddy with them. He's also apparently forgotten Tianamen Square Massacre.

David Briegel

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:31 a.m.

But I thought Ronnie Reagan won the cold war. KGB runs Russia and China runs the rest of the world. Wasn't that his plan.


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Correct Jay, it is a stacked system. Foreign investment in China needs complete approval by their government - and through which, the ruling elite (party members, the People's Liberation Army - the latter in essence the largest corporation in China) take their "cut" as partners. It's communist party crony capitalism. In contrast, only if a Chinese purchase trips technology or security concerns through the Critical Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) process can a sale be blocked. Supporters may say it is a price we pay for open capitalism, or that we went through this before with Japan. Some merits to the former, but the latter argument ignores the scope and size of China's purchasing power - fueled by the trade imbalance and repayment of federal debt (using money we paid back to China to buy US), Japan was a bubble, China will be a boulder.

Angry Moderate

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

Isn't it a little early to start speculating that anything could be the "most X of the 21st century"?

Jay Thomas

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Yes, Tom, China can gobble up all of our companies ("investment"), while we are prevented from buying any of theirs. Super deal! Now you can go back to waving China's flag everywhere, old buddy.