By Carol Cain

On the heels of Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent trade mission to China, speakers including China expert Tom Watkins and Chinese Consul General Yang Guoqiang will appear Thursday at Oakland University to talk about strengthening those economic bridges.

The Ambassador Leonard Woodcock Legacy Series event being held there is named after the late former president of the United Auto Workers who was appointed by U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China in 1979.

No doubt there will be conversation about China and prospects of General Motors and Chrysler doing more there which has become political volley between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney is running a radio ad on Obama’s auto industry restructuring, implying GM used resources to hire more workers in China than this country.

And Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent an email to workers Tuesday saying a Romney TV commercial that the auto maker may move all Jeep production to China is wrong.

“It is clear politicians use China as a boogieman to mine for votes,” said Watkins. “It is sad and pathetic distortions and lies about the basic economic security of working men and women are being used in an attempt to scare up votes. It is distasteful and wrong.”

Michigan’s former state superintendent and mental health director is also a China expert.

He’s advising Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) the state’s jobs creation arm, as well as serving on the University of Michigan Confucius Institute board of advisors.

Watkins has traveled extensively through China and written hundreds of articles that often appear in the prestigious China-US Focus.

“The goal of the Leonard Woodcock Legacy Seminar is to foster solid, on-going relationships across borders, cultures and politics to assist our people – on both sides of the ocean to develop relationships based on mutual respect, friendship, cooperative collaboration that enables investment, commerce and the free flow of knowledge,” Watkins said.

Watkins  is CEO of TDW & Associates a US/China business and educational consulting business.

He suggested to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson to offer Mandarin in all county schools a few years ago, making it the first in the country to do so.

And he helped jumpstart the dormant 30-year sister relationship between Michigan and Sichuan Province in China which Snyder did during his recent trip in September.

Watkins helped MEDC’s get its “Pure Michigan” campaign posted on China’s version of You Tube. He worked with Hairong Li, professor of advertising at MSU. The duo also got  Make “Macomb your home,” Oakland County, and Henry Ford Museum’s videos posted too.

All are on Youku, which has over 500 million viewers.

“This is another small attempt to help build two way bridges from the Great Lakes to the Great Wall,” Watkins said.

Also appearing at Thursday’s event:  Alan Flint, vice president, International-5/3 Bank, Chicago;  Doug Smith, senior Vice President of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and other government and business leaders from Michigan and China.

The forum is held at Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Hall.

For more information: Mel Gilroy, co- chair of the Ambassador Legacy series at : (248) 941-4805


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