An Adult Conversation On China

By on October 18th, 2012

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Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

An Adult Conversation On China

October 19, 2012
Governor Romney and President Obama owe the American people a better explanation of what their China policy will be moving forward and how it will help create opportunities and jobs here at home.
The level of debate on this vital issue is reminiscent of a grade school fight. “He started it”. “Did not” “Did to!” It is childish and does nothing to address the concerns of the American voters and may harm our long-term relationship with China and start a trade war that would hurt workers in both our countries.
It is clear politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, use China as a boogieman to mine for votes.
Are there problems with our relationship with China? Absolutely.
Our national leaders should stand up for both free and fair trade, human rights, and enact sensible policies to help address currency manipulation and theft of our intellectual property.
Romney talks tough on China, as all presidential challengers always do, declaring he will brand China a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency. Most thoughtful experts believe this would only stiffen the Chinese resolve and likely would lead to a trade war where no one wins.
Obama, mocks Romney’s “tough talk” and calls him the “Outsourcer in Chief” for shipping jobs to China while leading Bain Capital.
At The State Level
At the state level, Governor Snyder has put a sensible China policy in play. Snyder is seeking ways to increase Michigan exports to China and knowing the Chinese plan to invest over one trillion dollars around the globe is positioning Michigan as a good place to invest.
While the past administration played “Peking Duck,” never once traveling to China, Snyder has traveled there twice in his first two years in office to develop the necessary guanxi (relationships) to tap the 21st century mother lode of economic opportunity.
This strategy will help grow jobs in the Mitten State.
At the national level we need an adult debate on China.
Ignoring or alienating one-fifth of all humanity with a rapidly expanding economy and military is not a smart policy. We need less talk of division and subtraction and more focus on how our relationship with China can add value and multiple jobs here at home.
Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and architect of America’s China policy has been sharply critical of both Governor Romney and President Obama on their appealing to American suspicions about China. He said both were using “extremely deplorable language.”
Kissinger has endorsed Romney but opposes his stand on China, saying virtually all China experts oppose it.
As we witnessed in the 2006 governor race between Dick DeVos and Jenifer Granholm, playing the China card for votes may be good politics but it will not do anything to get our country working again.
As the 21st century unfolds, there will be no more important relationship than US and China. All major global issues will intersect at the corner of Beijing and Washington D.C. How this relationship is managed will impact not only the people of America and China –but all of humanity.
The final debate is on foreign policy. Perhaps President Obama and Governor Romney will enlighten us on their China policy and stop the scare tactics in search of votes.
We need a leader that understands that what happens in China does not stay in China and will assure China’s continual rise does not come at our demise.
Let that debate begin.
Tom Watkins has a life-time interest in China sparked by a great fourth grade teacher. He has traveled and written extensively about China/U.S. relations for over a quarter of a century. The former Michigan state superintendent of schools is now a U.S./China business and educational consultant. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Tom Watkins

Tom Watkins has an eclectic career in both the public and private sectors. He served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and director of the department of mental health. He has held leadership positions in higher education, business and behavioral health. Watkins has a interest and passion in all things China and has written hundreds of article on the value of this most important bilateral relationship in the world today.

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KP CHEN
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KP CHEN

China policy is, perhaps, less of a foreign policy than it is of an human policy …
Human nature, human desire, human bondage, human shortcoming, human stupidy, human suffereings, human fallings, human ugliness, human glory, human dignity & hunan … human …
Praise or Accuse.
They are all correct.

Joe Ross
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Obama did not save GM, China saved it along with thousands of Michigan jobs. GM sells more cars in China than they do in the US.

Tom White
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Tom White

Watkins once again nails the issue of China/US relations in a thoughtful way. The power and influence of China is growing and will contine to do so. We need to find constructive and smart ways to engage this waking giant. Hubristic rhetoric does not help. Understanding and engaging them as an equal, and recognizing the natural frictions, dealing straightforwardly with the issues will. We need to appoint Watkins as Michigan’s special trade envoy! He gets the balance – the yin and yang necessary for this crucial relationship.

Angie Kwin
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Angie Kwin

China is such a fierce presence on the worlds stage. But the US is more commanding in many ways.. As this points out, we need to figure out how to tame this lion.. Otherwise, we will be watching them grow and prosper at our expense..

Sandra Owen
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Sandra Owen

I agree China is a country to watch. I hope we dont spend too much time on it.. We need to worry about our own backyard.

roger march
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roger march

Tom , thank you for keeping the light on this important issue. Michigan can benefit as the Governor mentioned after his recent trip to China, The U.S. needs to get on the ball and do the same thing.. Stop fighting it….

rocco
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rocco

We need to have solid trade agreements with all of our partners. I agree China is and will be a major player in the centuries to come. The current administration has had 4 years to work with China with nothing being accomplished. Time for a change.

Tim
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Tim

I look forward when the “silly season” of political campaigning is over and hopefully we can get serious about fixing the series of problems that are being papered over in this nation.
We pretend we are still number one– when we are losing many of the things that have made this a great nation.
We better wake up soon.

Jon
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Jon

Obama did save GM, they have been in CHina since the early 90’s. Tom is right a coherent China policy is needed and both sides need to abide by the agreement. Greedy vulture capitalists like Bain need to be stopped. They cause more problems for the US economy than Chinses firms.

Robin Dale
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When I was young we were told not to be wasteful as there were many who had nothing to eat in China. As we thanked God for his blessings, at the dinner table, we asked God to bless the people of China. Today he has answered our prayers for those who were less fortunate, and we should make every effort to accept the hand of friendship that 99 percent of the Chinese people have extended to the Western Free World. From this Scotsman to my American friends, don’t lose the vision of helping other nations to find the freedom and… Read more »

Zhe Kong
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Zhe Kong

Robin Dale, you nailed it in every word.
Appreciated!

Elizabeth
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Elizabeth

Clearly this relationship between our two countries are going to be even more important moving forward. Appreciate the discussion and how it impacts us here in Michigan.
It is good indeed to see our Gov to engage China in ways that can help get the state working again.
It is simply silly to think China can be ignored on any level.

Charlie H
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Charlie H

I found this article to be profound in that Watkins acknowledges the inevitable future of China’s growing and dominating market and proposes that we follow Governor Snyder’s example by learning to work with the country, not against it. The reality is that China will continue to become a superpower in the world and we either have two options – make unsuccessful attempts to limit their growth or embrace reality and work with them to figure out how their needs and booming trade can then help the U.S. Governor Snyder has chosen the latter and the numbers have shown the benefits… Read more »

Jingxia
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Jingxia

Mr. Tom, it’s a profound and vivid article to describe the conversation between governor Romney and President Obama on China. Romney support the hard power in language, however, Obama prefer to the soft power. In my view, U.S. need a president who could cover both.
On debate, they should focus more on how to decrease the unemployment, improve the education and so on.

Hollis K
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Hollis K

I have read a number of Watkins insights on China on this site and others over the years and felt— “what the heck”— China?
Yet, as the presidential election and Gov Snyder’s focus on China are showing– -along with the constant Watkins drum beat=— China matters and will likely be embedded in all we do going forward.
Watkins has a knack for being able to look ahead and around corners and see trends before they hit the mainstream.
Thanks for the insights.

Rhonda V.
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Rhonda V.

I am writing an essay for an international relations — course about Chiina and found this article and others you have written — as they say on Fox News— “fair and balanced!
Yet, unlike Fox– it is true in your case.
Thanks

Rebecca Shorter
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Rebecca Shorter

China will soon rise up and swallow the US.

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