China is Trying to Gain a Toe Hold in Michigan

By: Chris Johnson

“Whether we like it or not, [TikTok] is a tool for disseminating important information, and that’s how we use it,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told CNN earlier this year.

Whitmer does like it. Her account has over two hundred thousand followers who can watch her announce her support for pro-abortion legislation, LGBT ideology, gun control, Michigan State Basketball, and her love for her dogs. She’s posted 247 times and received over 3 million likes.

However, whether she likes it or not, TikTok is also a tool for Chinese surveillance, which the State of Michigan recently acknowledged by banning the use of the social media app on all state devices. Well, almost all. As Michiganders know too well from Whitmer’s weekend trip to Florida weeks after she urged Michiganders not to travel during the pandemic, our governor likes to have her own set of rules. BigGretchWhitmer, as she’s still known on TikTok, continues to share those important messages (and dog videos) on the app, although, we’re assured, NEVER from a state network.

The reason that Michigan, as well as half of the other states in the nation, has banned TikTok from their devices is not only the incontrovertible fact that the app sucks up users’ data, but that TikTok’s parent company Bytedance, being based in China, is required by Chinese law to “support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law.” So, all that data hoovered up by the Chinese company is required to be accessible to the Chinese government.

But, that law doesn’t only apply to data companies, but to “any organization or citizen.” So any company based in China and operating in the US would be under the same directive, like, say, Gotion, the Chinese battery manufacturer being sweet-talked by Whitmer into opening a plant in Mecosta County, Michigan.

Michigan won Gotion’s heart over several other states competing for the project by offering a $125 million grant, $540 million worth of state property tax relief, and an additional $50 million performance-based grant. In addition to state incentives, the company would also be exempt from local taxes for a number of years.

That’s an awfully big incentive for a global competitor, especially when a month ago fighter planes were shooting down Chinese spy balloons, including one over the Great Lakes.

We can’t trust their social media apps, because they spy on us. We shoot down balloons they sent to spy on us. But we will give $715 million of incentives to set them up in our backyard. Surely, their intentions are 100% noble.

In return, the Chinese company promises to bring around 2,500 jobs to the rural West Michigan location, which no doubt would look awfully nice on the Governor’s resume when she runs for president in a few years.

The original planned location for the Gotion plant straddled the border of Green Charter Township and Big Rapids, but after Big Rapids residents very sensibly pushed back, the company seems to have decided to plant both feet in Green Charter Township.

And, to be sure, those jobs would change a lot of lives in that rural part of the state. As CEO of the Mission Economic Development Corporation – which had to approve the incentive package – noted, the project represents the “largest economic development project this far north in the great history of Michigan.”

Nearby Big Rapids is the largest municipality in the area and it has a population of less than ten thousand. Twenty-five hundred jobs would change the entire landscape, resulting in an influx of new residents and new businesses and new opportunities. That would all be wonderful for the community – for as long as it might last- but it would all be built on a China based company, and, again, required by Chinese law to “support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law.”

But if it’s not enough that the company would have to assist Chinese intelligence, the owner and founder of Gotion is a member of the Chinese Communist Party. His son, the CEO of Gotion – Li Chen – is a WEF Young Global Leader. Their loyalty is not to the United States, let alone West Michigan. China would have the families of twenty-five hundred employees essentially held hostage, should the US make “the wrong move” that would harm China.

Consider, for example, if the US ever decided to take a principled stand on the backbone of this energy technology – the mistreatment, which amounts to slavery, that goes into mining the rare earth metals required to build these batteries. China has an essential control of the lithium supply, holding 65% of the world’s mines.

As the Democrats push to wean us off from fossil fuels, of which America holds the world’s major supply, it is lithium-ion batteries that are taking their place in many ways – an unmitigated benefit to Communist China. And it is plants like this one and another planned plant by Ford in Detroit that will serve as hooks to yank the US in the economic directions China wants us to go.

When our energy storage is dependent on Chinese lithium, and a significant segment of our workforce is dependent on Chinese-owned factories, how will we dare tell them ‘no’ on anything?

The Gotion plant is not a done deal yet. There is still lots of planning to be done and many permits to go through, but there is significant pressure on the state government to make this deal happen.

Last night, several hundred Michigan patriots showed up to protest during a Green Township panel discussion regarding the project, but local government continues to speak as if their constituents’ opinions are ignorant and inconsequential. Township Supervisor Jim Chapman told one reporter, “Right now, there’s so much misinformation out there, you would not believe what I’m having to deal with.”

Crain’s Detroit sat in on Wednesday’s virtual meeting and report that Gotion’s North American vice president, Chuck Thelen, “Tackled the CCP claims at the outset of a virtual panel discussion Wednesday evening focused on answering questions submitted by residents, ‘There is no communist plot within Gotion to make Big Rapids a center to spread communism,’ Thelen said on the call. ‘Never in my time with this company have I ever heard anybody mention anything about a party affiliation…’”

“Thelen sought to dispel the claim that Gotion must carry out the Communist Party agenda. Critics have raised questions about the company’s articles of association, which state as of July: ‘The Company shall set up a Party organization and carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.’

Thelen said those terms apply to parent company Gotion High-Tech Co. Ltd. but not the North American subsidiary established in California in 2014, which is building the plant near Big Rapids.

Thelen said he will serve as plant manager overseeing operations and that parent company chairman and president, Zhen Li, has entrusted him to run it.

“He’s never ever made reference to a communist ideal or directive,” Thelen said of Li. “He has my trust. I think he’s an honest man.”

How you can read that statement from the Gotion’s articles of association and then just assume that Mr. Thelen’s vouching for the company can supersede the official document is beyond me, but apparently that is what Green Township leadership wants folks to do.  Michigan leadership and township leaders see dollar signs and career advancement in this deal and they are committed to seeing it go through.

Pray that it doesn’t, for the long term good of the nation and the people of Michigan. If you are a Michigan resident, please contact state representatives and township officials, and get the word out about this to your friends.

If you have the time this afternoon, we’d encourage you to check out the Committee on Present Danger China’s webinar, beginning at 3PM ET, which will explain how – in their words, the Gotion project is “the latest example of the CCP’s efforts to penetrate and subvert America at the state-level with influence operations aimed at governors.” This event will feature Stand Up Michigan’s Ron Armstrong and former Congressman Pete Hoekstra as contributors. Click here for more info on this webinar.

China is trying to get a toe hold in Michigan, and TikTok user TheBigGretch is trying to help. That’s reason enough to know it’s bad for our state.


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