Officials Downplay “Anti-China Propaganda,” Defend State Funding for Communist China-Based Company to Build Battery Factory in Michigan

April 5, 2023

The Chinese people and culture are great. Their Communist government? Not so much. There has long been an ongoing ideological war between freedom-based Americanism and authoritarian-based Communism. How can we best operate within the reality of our interconnected economy while this war is being waged?

It is easy to understand why states and local communities look to attract businesses – including foreign businesses – to their jurisdictions with incentives; they seek to reap the benefits of the jobs, development, and revenue such investments bring with them. It also usually makes the politicians that green light the deals look good. Deals are made with this in mind all the time and come in many forms with minimal scrutiny. When attempts to attract a business involve giving approximately $715 million in public funding to a company based in Communist China however, additional scrutiny, criticism, and protest is likely to follow.

Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Michigan Strategic Fund approval for multiple projects in the state, including the Gotion factory, October 2022
Planned protest to coincide with the online discussion panel. This graphic also highlights the environmental concerns of the local residents

“Gotion High Tech is a publicly traded international organization with a diverse board of executive directors including citizens of Germany, USA and China. Within the Gotion Inc North America organization, who is responsible for Big Rapids, Michigan plant ownership, there is no CCP organization influence. No person on the leadership team is a CCP member. There is no CCP organization or influence to the NA operation. There is not a slim chance of influence of any political party to Gotion Inc. while we follow regional and federal regulations and requirements within all of our North America facilities that are in operation since 2015. GOTION INC has current operations in California and Ohio servicing NA customers and is on contract with the Department of Energy USABC to assist establishment of NA battery standards.”

Chuck Thelen, Gotion Inc., VP North America Manufacturing
Top shareholders in the company do indeed include foreign investors as well as chinese nationals. This however is not necessarily the point of the criticism or the concern

The problem they face is that the criticism is rooted in discussion much deeper and complex than the surface-level details upon which they must focus. Yes, Gotion is a multinational corporation based in China with investors from around the world. Yes, they already have presence in other states and an American division. Yes, we live in a globalized, interconnected world that makes such cooperation and reciprocal exchange between nations necessary and mutually beneficial. Some may ask, given that there are many American businesses and factories operating in China, why can’t there be Chinese-based factories operating in America? Well there can, and there are. This is why the Gotion project received approval and why it will likely be finalized.

Are both “sides” of this issue missing the overall point? We cannot overlook the fact that the Chinese government is openly, unabashedly Communist. They are not our ideological brethren. In fact, they are our ideological enemies. The relative openness we have seen in Chinese markets over the last decades is not part of a slow path towards eventual liberalization of China. In fact, the exact opposite is true, as we will see.

“Tense bilateral relationship continues to stoke uncertainty in business decision making: Half of our member companies are pessimistic about the future of US-China relations in the coming year with three-quarters of members reporting that their companies have been impacted by trade tensions. A positive bilateral relationship is extremely important to member company businesses in China and many hope that future trade negotiations will result in more open Chinese markets and a level playing field for foreign-invested enterprises.”

AmCham China, 2023 BCS Report

Prudence would suggest we be very mindful of China’s activities as they advance into peer competition status. This does not mean we ought to reject deals like the gotion deal outright (even if we could). It just means we must do a better job raising awareness and curbing their influence. This is especially true given the orientation, stated beliefs, and stated goals of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

US-Chinese Relations

Search back through foreign policy journals for the last couple decades and you will find countless articles warning about the pending rise of a multipolar world to challenge US/Western hegemony. This is particularly true concerning China, a nation dominated by an authoritarian regime long regarded as a rising power that could some day present a challenge to the liberal world order maintained by western financial/economic dominance and US power projection capabilities. It is no secret that rising China intends to dominate its regional sphere and extend its influence well beyond it. China is steadily making moves to strengthen its position in East Asia and the Pacific region, connect itself further within the Eurasian continent, invest itself heavily in the Middle East and Third World nations and present alternatives to western finance and the dominant US dollar.

To the extent certain powerful voices in America have been warning about this and opposing it (for the most part) it has often unfortunately been done via the promotion of counterproductive means. We should not seek to oppose China’s authoritarianism by being more authoritarian, its militarism by being more militant, or its skirting of legitimate rules by taking advantage of our powerful position to act contrary to these rules ourselves. It may sound cheesy or cliche, but America’s best weapon against such potentially disruptive challengers is leading by the example of our principles and conducting outreach to other nations in accord with them. If we truly believe our system based on freedom and responsibility is superior, we ought to double down on it. Much of the world laments American hegemony or begrudgingly complies with it. Is this because we have painstakingly stuck to our guiding principles and our rhetoric, or because we have too often hypocritically strayed from it? This is not a sufficient state of affairs to maintain a position of power in the future as these other states and entire regions advance and gain access to alternatives. What’s more, even at home we face the threat from the lure of more powerful top-down systems, as some of our own citizens see it as more practical than our system of limited divided government while the the newer generations are being taught its achievement is desirable. We must be vigilant on this front when faced with the prospects of increased Chinese investment in our communities.

Communist China

The revised and adopted version at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on October 23, 2022 states;

“The Communist Party of China is the vanguard of the Chinese working class, the Chinese people, and the Chinese nation. It is the leadership core for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and represents the developmental demands of China’s advanced productive forces, the orientation for China’s advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the greatest possible majority of the Chinese people. The Party’s highest ideal and ultimate goal is the realization of communism. The Communist Party of China uses Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as its guides to action.

The Constitution of the CCP reflects their will to keep on the path of socialism guided by Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong thought. They strengthen the grip of the Communist Party’s control through exploiting the Marxist concept of the “people’s democratic dictatorship.” Marxism-Leninism is vehemently opposed to “bourgeois liberalization.” Americans hoping the CCP will reform itself given greater market integration and exposure to the world alone are sorely mistaken. Their game is to grow, strengthen, and slowly influence our culture and government, not to allow their people to be influenced by ours.

Defenders of the Gotion deal will likely argue that the American subsidiary of Gotion is a step removed from Gotion in China and has different leadership. That is noted, however it does not really refute the point of concern. We cannot be so naive to think everyone in China is operating from purely Communist motives any more than we can think everyone in America is operating with intent to preserve freedom and our founding ideals. There are many other motives, simply obtaining profit being one of them. But the influence of the CCP is built into the structure of Chinese culture and business. Their authoritarian tendency is unavoidable. It is just something of which we must always be aware and guard against.

Conservatives in the United States must realize that the enemy is in the ideology. We must oppose the freedom-destroying authoritarianism of the CCP model. We can best do that by bolstering our own principles, leading by example, and showing the benefits of our beliefs. Conservatives cannot get caught up on the petty details of specific interactions between entities operating from the other “side” within our already established interconnected economy. Democrats and Progressives in America may be surprised to learn the CCP does not like them much either. Sure, the CCP will fein solidarity and use their causes to foment domestic division in America, but the bureaucratic mess championed by the Progressives and the undisciplined, decentralized nature of the Libertarian-Left are frowned upon by the CCP. So what should we do? We cannot simply pick up our ball and go home; the international stage is set. We must pick our battles and fight hard for our beliefs. The CCP is thinking of the long game, we must do so too.

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