On December 3, 2015, Delaware Governor Jack Markell joined representatives from the China General Chamber of Commerce (CGICC) and China’s largest auto parts manufacturer, Wanxiang Group (parent company to the US-based Wanxiang America Corp.), to announce the expansion of a China summer abroad program for Delaware high school students studying Mandarin. The agreement expands a previous commitment of $450,000 for the current academic year to a $675,000 budget, complimented by a $75,000 grant from CGICC which will allow the program to run through 2017. It will now be able to fund 30 students (plus chaperones) for two more years.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, the CEO of Wanxiang America Corp., Ni Pin, stressed that not only were they a Chinese company, but that they are “an American company creating American jobs in the United States, too.” He also stated that all of the American branch’s profits are reinvested in the US, and that Wanxiang America Corp. is registered in the US for tax purposes. The company does share a strong business relationship with the massive Chinese conglomerate, and they import many of their parts from the parent company. Because of this, Wanxiang America was able to survive the 2008 financial crisis and purchase bankrupt manufacturing companies, saving over 3,000 American jobs. Today, Wanxiang America has absorbed over two dozen companies, they employ more than 6,000 Americans, and maintain 28 manufacturing facilities in 14 US states. One in every 3 vehicles made in the US in 2010 contains components made in Wanxiang’s USA plant.
Shortly after acquiring bankrupt Fisker Automotive Holdings Inc. in Delaware in February of 2014, Wanxiang chose to invest in the community in another way, at which point it began the study abroad program. The program not only helps local students learn about Chinese culture and language, it cultivates a technical skill set by having the students learn in the context of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-oriented work environment. Students from the US spend four weeks at Wanxiang Group’s Headquarters in Hangzhou, a city in Zhejiang Province, which enjoys a sister state relationship with Delaware. They take daily language classes, participate in cultural activities, and tour the facilities of STEM-oriented companies.
Another positive result of the Fisker acquisition in 2014 is that Wanxiang plans to revive the company’s General Motors manufacturing plant in Delaware and restart the development of the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid car. Wanxiang America has been in the renewable energy business since 2000, when they founded Universal Solar, a US-based subsidiary that focuses on solar power. In 2005 they began manufacturing solar photovoltaic panels, supplying an extensive list of significant clients in the US, including a military facility in California and a government building in Minnesota, among several others.
The US has been welcoming of Wanxiang’s American presence. Lu Guanqiu, CEO of Wanxiang Group, met with Vice President Joe Biden and was invited to visit several US cities including Detroit, Dover, and Washington. Providing jobs for American citizens and expanding renewable energy are of great interest to the current administration. By creating educational opportunities such as the one in Delaware, Wanxiang is adding an additional page to its portfolio of community engagement.
Colby Ferland is a recent graduate of the George Washington University and a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington.