When your biggest customer talks, smart companies listen. For car makers, that customer is China.

So when China recently announced it's preparing to ban vehicles powered by fossil fuels, auto executives around the world quickly took notice.

Russell Padmore, a BBC business reporter, joined Stateside to talk about the future of the auto industry, and he says China’s not alone.

Ford has announced for the third time where the next generation of the Ford Focus car is going to be assembled: China.

Daniel Howes tells Stateside what this means for the city of Wayne, where the car model is currently being assembled. He also talks about potential future moves for Ford.

Michigan's farmers and growers are always looking for new and bigger markets for their products.
The Michigan Farm Bureau thinks they should look at China, where there is growing interest in what Michigan's farms have to offer.

President Donald Trump wants U.S. automakers to build their vehicles in the United States. U.S. carmakers want him to ease up on upcoming emissions regulations.

That's the framework for the president's visit with auto leaders today in Ypsilanti. The visit comes right on the heels of Ford's announcement that its luxury Lincoln unit will start building SUVs in China with a local partner.

The Next Idea

China is Michigan’s third largest export market. A new nonprofit is up and running, planning to encourage more Chinese investment here.

Brian Connors is the executive director of the Michigan-China Innovation Center.

Connors sat down with us today to talk about how he plans to attract the attention of Chinese investors and why China is such a valuable business partner for Michigan.

Chris Hintz

The Chinese economy and its rapid expansion is a wonder of the modern world. But its ugly side drives the story in Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s new play.

"The World of Extreme Happiness" opens in New York next month. It’s a dark comedy about the hopes of rural migrants in China whose dreams look rather American.

The hero of the drama, 19-year old Sunny, works as a janitor and wants a promotion. She meets an older worker who explains the power of positive thinking.

Governor Snyder leaves for China today on his fourth trade mission to Asia. Tom Watkins has spent many years, in many different roles, campaigning for stronger ties between China and Michigan.

Watkins says Governor Snyder has two goals for this trip: promote Michigan goods and services, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI). China has plans to invest $1 trillion around the world, so it is important for Governor Snyder to attract FDI in order to create new jobs and opportunities within the state, says Watkins.

Watkins says there is a chance to develop a good relationship with China, as Chinese car companies have set up several R&D plants in southeast Michigan.. There are also a number of international students from China at state universities here. But Watkins warns it's not quick or easy work. "Doing business in China is not an economic one night stand," said Watkins. "You can’t just do one trip there.” Listen to our conversation with Watkins below:

Global automakers look to China to rev up their global sales, but growth in China's car sales slowed again in September. 

According to The Detroit Free Press, sales in passenger vehicles in China rose 6.4% in September from a year earlier, slowing from 8% in August and 13.9% in May. 

John McElroy is an auto analyst and host of the Autoline Daily webcast. He says the numbers are direct indicators of the economic health of the Chinese economy, which seems to be cooling down.

Executive Office of the President files

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says foreign investment and immigration will be critical to turning around Michigan’s economy.

The former aide to President George W. Bush spoke before the Detroit Economic Club (DEC) Monday afternoon with Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Make Michigan attractive for investment, period. OK? Make it attractive,” said Paulson.

He says Michigan should especially look to China to help boost the state’s economy. He says many Chinese businesses are looking to expand overseas, and Michigan needs to make it clear they are welcome.

Tom Watkins was on his first trip to China shortly before the People's Liberation Army turned on the people of China, killing an unknown number of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.

Watkins says the most defining moment of the trip for him was when a Chinese student asked him to describe democracy.

“I felt really inadequate to describe what we take for granted,” Watkins said. “It felt like trying to tell somebody who had never experienced freedom and democracy what it is like to wake up in the morning and start to breathe.”

Watkins was not in China on June 4, 1989, but he did watch the student-led uprising happen, and he recalls seeing the face of a lone man who defiantly blocked a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square.

“I wondered at that time if he was ever going to have his question answered in his own way in his own country,” Watkins said.

Now, 25 years later, Watkins is the president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. He has spent years traveling between the United States and China campaigning for stronger economic and social ties between the two countries.

Watkins said it is the most important relationship in the world. He said China may surpass the United States as early as this year as the world’s largest economy.

However, there are rising tensions between the two countries. Watkins said the United States’ relationship with China is critical.

*Listen to full interview above.

– Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Twenty-five years ago, Tiananmen Square in central Beijing was the focus of pro-democracy demonstrations. Crowds of protesters, including students and factory workers, camped out in the square for weeks.

But when the Chinese security forces made their decisive move, hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people were killed.

Hundreds were given lengthy prison sentences. Twenty-five years later, the vast majority have been released. However, one man is thought to still be in jail.

Stateside’s partner BBC’s Celia Hatton spoke to a handful of people who still remember Tiananmen’s last prisoner.

*Listen to audio clip above. 

Michigan's Increasing Ties To China

Jun 3, 2014

China is quickly becoming a key export market for Michigan businesses, and not just for large manufacturers.

“They are looking for supplies of cherries, blueberries and wine. And they are even interested in buying vineyards,” says Jack Segal.

The retired diplomat is co-chair of the International Affairs Forum. The group is hosting a business and education conference this Thursday and Friday in Traverse City.