China EV tech seen as critical, but tax breaks raise questions for Michigan

“I think the relationship, the understanding and the respect of different cultures, ‘guanxi,’ truthfully is crucial,” he said. “I would say number one, even more important than technological capability in this cross-border investment.”

The volatile relationship between the West and China are a major factor in Chinese companies deciding to invest in the U.S., and geopolitical tensions between the two often dictate the business relationship, Wu said. For example, battery giant CATL reportedly paused its plans for a U.S. plant in August after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.

Gotion and other Chinese companies will be paying close attention to Michigan politics as the election approaches, Wu said.

Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon last week criticized the administration’s approval of more Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve funding, some of which could be directed toward the Gotion project.

“Your taxpayer dollars should be used to make sure your kids are getting a world-class education, you have a reliable infrastructure (and) that you have safe cities, but now we’re seeing taxpayer dollars go into an adversary, a Chinese corporation,” Dixon said in a Facebook video.

Whitmer, too, has often spoken about the need to outcompete China for manufacturing dominance.

Companies want to go where they feel welcome and where they think their investments will be protected, Wu said. At the same time, Gotion has a lot of work to do to win over the community.

“They need to closely manage their identity and image, focusing on the job creation part,” Wu said.

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