Election-year China bashing needs to stop

Tom Watkins

You know it is election time again as the volume of China bashing gets louder and louder.

Bashing China for political gain is an age old sport but is not helpful to develop the “people-to-people” connection needed as the 21st century unfolds.

Blaming China for our economic woes is a cynical tactic for mining votes. Making China the “boogeyman” diverts American voters’ attention away from actions and inactions of our political leaders. 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. We cannot afford to have leaders who claim they will “go anywhere and do anything for jobs,” and then bash China for political expediency.

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 International Monetary Fund considers the world’s fastest growing large economy. It only plays on fears of American workers who have been rocked by the changing world.

Instead, America needs an aggressive plan that makes China’s rise and globalization work for us, not against us.

Prior to the election and re-election of Gov. Rick 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.

Investment goes where it is welcome and stays where it is nurtured. Currently, Michigan has nearly 200 Chinese-owned firms that contribute $3 billion in foreign direct investment.

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.

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

Snyder has done more to build cultural, educational and economic bridges with China and its 1.4 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.

Snyder recently created the Michigan-China Innovation Center. The new organization aims to attract Chinese investment to Michigan with a $5 million or $1 million per year, for 5 initial startup funds from the Michigan Strategic Fund the Governor is wisely planting seeds whose bounty will be harvested for decades to come.

It’s wiser to build two-way economic bridges than “Great Walls.”

Tom Watkins is the president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.