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James McGregorIt was obvious that this topic was of interest to many who attended the 16th Annual Bob and Kim Griffin Building U.S.-China Bridges lecture held recently at McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota.  The speaker was James McGregor, author and Greater China chair for APCO Worldwide, an international PR firm.

Prior to the lecture, Joan Brezinski, executive director of the China Center and Confucius Institute, introduced Robert Kudrie, Orville & Jane Freeman chair in International Trade & Investment Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs.  In his introductory remarks, Kudrie noted that trade is the central cause of pain for the U.S. and more than 6 million jobs have been lost from 2000-2010 while output still managed to increase.  As he introduced McGregor, Kudrie stated that the lecture would be about the future and not the past, and what the options are for now.

 

As McGregor began, it appeared that the audience was certainly going to get an earful as to how the lecture was presented as McGregor spoke to the DNA of the U.S. and China political systems as being very different.  On the other hand, our economies, and increasingly our societies, are deeply intertwined.  America has to accept that China is on its way to building a global economic, political, and military footprint to rival the U.S.  The Chinese leadership has to accept that, as the world's second largest economy and an international trade and finance powerhouse, China will have to begin genuinely playing by global rules.  The answer may be for China and the U.S. to treat each other as equals, and to have reciprocity as the bedrock that underlies our business and trade relations. During the fast-paced lecture, McGregor commented on how the U.S. has fixated on long memories that still manifests itself in an anti-China mood while China has developed a very strong ambition to be successful and is concentrating on the industries of the future with its people focusing on being entrepreneurs. 

McGregor briefly discussed how innovative and sharp the local governments are while Beijing continues to be obsessed with scary paranoia.  He noted that Xi Jinping, president of China, sees himself as the third transformative leader of post-dynastic China, behind Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.  His optimistic message has been the promise of the China Dream, the Chinese equivalent of making China great again.  He notes that we cannot blame our problems on China and perhaps need to be providing the right kind of training to U.S. workers.  He compares train stations in China to our Ellis Island.  He also pointed out the U.S. is very similar to China, except that China has more people. 

The U.S. has no reason to demonize China.  Perhaps we should even congratulate China on its amazing performance.  The country has gone down a well-worn path.  But current Chinese policies are at the end of the road.  China’s market and its industrial machine are now so mighty that protectionism and mercantilism amount to a form of global economic warfare.

In China, a new economic paradigm emerges in the form of its One Belt, One Road program, which focuses on the creation of an economic land belt for countries on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and Europe.  It also provided a link between China’s port facilities and the African coast, pushing up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

This program aims to redirect the country’s domestic overcapacity and capital for regional infrastructure development to improve trade and relations with Asian, Central Asian and European countries.

How do we make a U.S.-China deal?  China needs outward investment to gain the technology and know-how to modernize and diversify the country’s industrial and financial assets.  The U.S. needs to protect the country’s technology base and rebuild our industrial base.  Both sides are focused on jobs.

Following his presentation, McGregor held a brief Q & A session that included questions about dealing with North Korea, business opportunities in China, women’s equality, developing markets and concerns about how the heads of state will handle U.S.–China relations.

At the conclusion of the program, Meredith McQuaid, associate vice president and dean of International Programs, presented McGregor with the Griffin plaque.

 

James McGregor is Greater China chairman for APCO Worldwide and author of two highly regarded books: “No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism” and “One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China.”  He is a former China bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal and former CEO of Dow Jones China.  In his nearly three decades in China, he has also been a venture capital investor, entrepreneur who founded a research company for hedge funds, and an advisor to many companies.  He currently splits his time between Shanghai, Beijing, and Duluth.

 

Griffin Lecture Series

Building a legacy for their children and for Minnesota, Bob and Kim Griffin created an endowment fund at the China Center to establish the “Bob and Kim Griffin Building U.S.-China Bridges Lecture.  The Griffin’s substantial gift reflects their commitment to promoting the mutual respect between the two cultures and their passion to connect people to China.

Bob Griffin is Founder and CEO of Griffin International Companies, which he formed in 1997. Under Griffin’s leadership as founder and CEO, Griffin International Companies has become one of the country’s leading sales and marketing firms. With extensive work in ASIA and the U.S. with retailers like Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Apple, Griffin International has been a leading voice of mutual understanding in the retail community.

About the China Center

The China Center was established in 1979 to manage the University of Minnesota's exchanges with the Greater China area (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan).  For more than three decades, the China Center has reflected the firm and long-standing commitment of the University to international research, teaching and outreach.  http://chinacenter.umn.edu

 

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CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Our goal is to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and business environments and to foster U.S.-China cultural and business harmony.