A local headline revised from “Official: City, Wanzhou near trade agreements” to “Chinese delegation makes rounds.” A trade deal that cannot be made public until finalized. No participation by Bill Bolling. The benefit: an invitation to participate in a year-long garden exposition in Chongqing. Where’s the ROI?
“I hope we can develop business relationships and promote better understanding of the Chinese culture and people. We’re all human beings living on the same planet.” – Waynesboro Mayor Frank Lucente
There are countless visits and relationships like the one in Waynesboro across the United States. Harmless on their face, possibly even beneficial. But you’d bet the Mayor of Waynesboro and his business delegation and their counterparts nationwide haven’t read their Sun Tzu. And if the “executive deputy governor” of Wanzhou was present, where was someone representing the Commonwealth? How about the fellow appointed by the Governor as the chief jobs officer? While Wanzhou is not technically a state, it has a population if 1.6 million (a tad bit larger than Augusta county’s) and the Chongquing exposition is a function of a direct-controlled municipality; translate: a Bejing economic functionary.
“We have a very good first impression of Waynesboro,” said Bai Wennong, executive deputy governor of Wanzhou. “It’s very beautiful.”
Wennong said the delegates are especially interested in opportunities to import agricultural products from the Valley.
Agricultural products? A trade success? For the Chinese, maybe.
China has evolved as a peer competitor of the United States mastering leverage. The first Boeing 747 delivered to China ala Nixon was dismantled and reverse-engineered. This technique of R & D is very efficient and is characteristic of many Chinese business “relationships.” Maybe that is what they were really after during the visit to Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville. Somehow I doubt the Chinese will ever be deterred from using the appellation no matter the objections of the French, so we can all look forward to popping the cork of a bottle of fine Chongquing Champagne or Chardonnay at a very reasonable price. Nevertheless, what is missing in this whole episode is the: What’s in it for Waynesboro and Virginia? Sales of agricultural products? To a land-locked province in China?
The bottom line: the Chinese are casting a wide economic net. A visit like this may yield nothing at all or it may yield an innovation that can be reverse-engineered and mass produced. This is the tip of the economic iceberg. Shortly the Chinese government will own at least one seat on the General Motors board of directors. We have let our guard down and been sold down the river by the “free market” adherents. This is not a call for trade barriers, but to bring our A-game. Bill Bolling’s failure to be a part of this, however, shows that we are not even on the field; we’ve left it to the stadium crew.