In words and deeds, Whitmer sends mixed message on China

Speech demands Michigan reduce reliance on goods from China, while touting Chinese EV battery plants

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s words and deeds were in conflict last week.

Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have championed a mass of corporate welfare for two forthcoming Chinese electric vehicle battery plants. There’s Gotion in the Big Rapids area, and there’s the Ford-CATL collaboration at BlueOval Battery Park in Marshall. Whitmer has presented these efforts as essential in making Michigan competitive in the electric vehicle market.

Yet during her “What’s next?” speech Wednesday — something like a late-year State of the State address — Whitmer spoke of the need to re-shore manufacturing to Michigan and to reduce America’s reliance on China. She even cited the Gotion and CATL projects among the examples of this.

“These new battery plants will be game changers, supporting thousands of families, uplifting local businesses, and ensuring that our cities and towns thrive for decades to come,” Whitmer said of the projects, some with China involvement, others without. “They'll help Michigan go toe-to-toe with China, bringing critical parts of the auto supply chain home. We must reduce our reliance on Chinese products, which have caused work stoppages, shortages and car price hikes.”

In the space of a few sentences, Whitmer whiplashed between praising the Chinese efforts as creating “good-paying jobs” to blaming China for everything from labor disputes to higher prices for cars. Which is it, governor?

Gotion, we now know, is wholly owned by a Chinese company that is an organ of the Chinese Communist Party. The Ford-CATL arrangement is a partnership, but it puts America’s most iconic car company in the backseat.

It was heartening to hear someone from Official Michigan speak of re-shoring manufacturing from China. But Whitmer’s push for electric vehicles worsens that dynamic, rather than improving it.

China has the market cornered on the minerals needed to make EV batteries. These materials are in finite supply, and the whole world wants them at the same time. Cost and availability will be a problem. For an idea presented as the key to a sustainable future, the electric vehicle is just the opposite. Things could turn on a dime overnight based on money, geopolitics, government subsidies drying up, or a combination.

America has become over-reliant on the People’s Republic of China in recent decades, to the point where many essential medications are manufactured there. It was smart for Whitmer to talk about bringing that work home to America. Make Detroit Manufacture Again.

What’s not smart is partnering in advanced manufacturing with the World Economic Forum, which wants 75% of all cars off the road by 2050. The World Economic Forum doesn’t manufacture anything but white papers and an annual meeting. And these are the people who are going to save Detroit, one cobot at a time?

When words and deeds are in conflict, trust the deeds. Whitmer talked a good game on China this week, but that’s all it was: talk. In deed, Whitmer is as China-centric as any politician in America.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.