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GM to back World Expo in Shanghai

2009. 20 September

by Carol Cain
( General Motors surprised many when it ended its 9-year endorsement deal with superstar golfer Tiger Woods.

It also has shocked communities like Flint when it yanked its sponsorship of the Buick Open golf tournament because of its bankruptcy.

Yet GM is forging ahead with its multimillion-dollar sponsorship of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China, taking place next spring.

As GM CEO Rick Wagoner told me when I worked on a WWJ-TV project on China, the country is "the one place we have to get it right."

Wagoner may be gone, but his words still ring true.

With 1.3 billion consumers and a huge and growing middle class, China matters.

GM, a top-selling brand in China, is the official automotive sponsor of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai along with its joint-venture partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC).

"World Expo 2010 demonstrates GM's long-term commitment to China and to our partnership with the Chinese government and SAIC," GM China spokeswoman Karin Zhang told me in an e-mail. "None of the money will come from the bridge loan, which is aimed at helping GM in the United States."

As GM revs up in China, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. -- the state agency charged with creating jobs -- is considering closing its Shanghai office.

"We're evaluating that right now," MEDC President and CEO Greg Main told me.

With its focus on alternative energy, battery and solar power, there are other countries that hold more promise. It doesn't mean the organization is giving up on China, it's just examining its resources and deciding how vital it is to have someone on the ground.

As MEDC regroups, others are forging ahead:

• Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is putting the finishing touches on his fifth Chinese trade mission.

• Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is seeing more Chinese officials, adding that the Mandarin program he announced two years ago for Oakland County schools is paying dividends with additional foot traffic.

• University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman has been leading the charge to expand her institution's efforts. The school's Confucius Institute just appointed an interim director and is slated to open in November.


Moaming Chu, deputy consul general of China's Chicago office, who spoke at an economic event at Oakland University this month, said, "We have many Chinese with a lot of money who want to invest here. It is important we continue to build bridges."

When asked what he says to critics, Ficano added: "I know there is sensitivity, but China isn't going away. We don't need to bury our heads in the sand like we did with Toyota."

CAROL CAIN hosts "Michigan Matters" at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WWJ-TV 62. Contact her at