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Let the feds deal with China

Monday, Oct 2, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The Illinois Senate Republicans are amplifying complaints made earlier by the Illinois Republican Party and others about a massive economic development project in Manteno.

The Illinois GOP complained in a recent fundraising email about the “encroachment” of the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on the economy, then connected Gotion Inc. to the CCP. Gotion’s American subsidiary is building a massive, $2 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Kankakee County with big help from state and local governments.

Elements of the far right, including former state Rep. Jeanne Ives and various newsletters and social media forums, have essentially claimed that Communists are using taxpayer funds to build some sort of spy base, or use it to promote CCP activities, or something. It’s not totally clear what. The state GOP claimed the plant would be built “right next to a military base,” which isn’t true, unless you count National Guard and Army Reserve camps in that category.

Anyway, the Senate Republicans expressed their own concerns in what was supposed to be a private letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week, which I obtained. Gotion is based in California, but its parent company was founded in China and has standard language in its Chinese charter about how it will “carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.”

“During your conversations with Gotion Inc.,” the Republicans asked the governor, “were there any discussions concerning whether the company will continue to ‘ensure necessary conditions for carrying out Party activities’ while in Illinois?”

Man, what I wouldn’t give to see Chinese commies try to organize a cell in Manteno. That would be a hoot.

Look, the Chinese are already here. Several Chinese companies invest in Illinois, and several Illinois companies do business in China. The computer used to create that letter was probably made in China or has lots of Chinese components.

More importantly, Illinois Manufacturers Association CEO Mark Denzler pointed out to me that a federal process exists to assess security risks for companies like Gotion and, he said, that process will play itself out here as well. Denzler, a lifelong Republican, doesn’t seem to have any major concerns and was at the project’s Manteno unveiling. Gotion was already given a federal green light in Michigan.

The U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice and State have not expressed any qualms about the project that anyone knows of. The company is required to invest $2 billion and create at least 2,600 good-paying jobs. Gotion is using American workers to build a product with lots of American-made components for American-made automobiles. Yeah, it’s the Chinese government. They have to be watched, for sure. But that’s not the state’s responsibility. That’s on the federal government.

And the Senate Republicans’ questions about whether the plant’s workers will be union members or whether there are any safeguards for workers’ rights have some legitimacy, particularly since a majority of the caucus voted for the union-backed Workers’ Rights Amendment.

Manteno is about 15 miles from the Indiana border. If Gotion had opened its massive new plant in Hoosierville, the Republicans would’ve undoubtedly pounced on the governor’s failure.

Manteno is represented in the House by a Republican, Rep. Jackie Haas, who supports the project. The state party and Senate Republican attacks are not sitting well with the House Republicans, but they’ve had to remain mostly silent.

The governor has put an enormous amount of time and effort into getting this deal done. Illinois has a bad reputation among business types. Overcoming those reputational hurdles ain’t easy, which is why Pritzker has had to work so hard to achieve this goal.

Pritzker also believes that closing this deal will convince other companies to follow along. So, he’s not about to sit back while people dump on this accomplishment.

The letter Pritzker sent back to the Senate Republicans was brutal, accusing them of “doubling down on your own irrelevance.”

“Opposing 2,600 jobs and $2 billion dollars in investment for a community that needs it is a curious position, but I have long since stopped trying to understand what the Illinois Republican Party has become,” he wrote.

The Republicans replied they were simply asking some questions and would still like them answered. Then again, a cynic could point to the fact that Democratic Sen. Patrick Joyce is up for reelection next year. The Manteno plant is in his district, and he is an enthusiastic supporter.

       

21 Comments
  1. - Pundent - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 8:49 am:

    The ILGOP has been reduced to the Midwest chapter of the freedom caucus existing not to be relevant but disruptive.


  2. - Jocko - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:04 am:

    You would think Jeanne Ives would be too busy fighting culture wars to go after the Red Menace


  3. - Sir Reel - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:12 am:

    In Republican world, Chinese connected company investment in Illinois under Democrat administration bad, same investment under Republican administration good.


  4. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:17 am:

    China has one of the world’s largest deposits of lithium, so it sort of makes sense the companies that build lithium batteries would be Chinese companies. Other deposits are in Chile and New Mexico, but it is considered preferable for China to exhaust their supply first. Otherwise we’d become dependent on China for all battery power.


  5. - Gruntled University Employee - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:18 am:

    ==The governor has put an enormous amount of time and effort into getting this deal done. Illinois has a bad reputation among business types. Overcoming those reputational hurdles ain’t easy, which is why Pritzker has had to work so hard to achieve this goal.==

    Bingo, this is why the ILGQP is in opposition. If this Governor gets a win, it must be a “tainted” win.


  6. - Lincoln Lad - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:24 am:

    At some point, an adult shows up to lead the Republican caucus, don’t they? Or is the brand forever diminished to what it is now and worse?


  7. - vern - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:26 am:

    === The state party and Senate Republican attacks are not sitting well with the House Republicans, but they’ve had to remain mostly silent. ===

    I’m sure there are political tradeoffs involved, but they don’t “have” to stay silent. There’s an alternate universe where Haas and the House Republicans come out swinging against the faction determined to keep good-paying jobs our of her district. That’s still possible.

    (Not trying to nitpick your word choice, I’m sure lots of House Republicans think they have to shut up and take this. I just think they’re wrong)


  8. - Hank Sauer - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:27 am:

    It s a bad deal no matter what party is in control and we all know the results will never be as predicted


  9. - Roadiepig - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:32 am:

    The sad part is if this was a Russian/Putin backed company wanting to build a factory here, many of the same naysayers would be all-in for the new facility. That is how irrelevant the Illinois state Republican party representatives have become


  10. - Jerry - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:35 am:

    If you’re that concerned about the Chinese the don’t shop at Wally World.


  11. - low level - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:39 am:

    ==It s a bad deal no matter what party is in control and we all know the results will never be as predicted==

    Spoken like a true follower of Joseph McCarthy, which is what the formerly mainstream IL GOP has become.


  12. - Rabid - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:44 am:

    GOP thinks no groundbreaking just a balloon launch


  13. - Flyin'Elvis'-Utah Chapter - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 9:51 am:

    What Jerry said.

    EV plant bad. 62 inch high def TV for 325.00, good.


  14. - DTownResident - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 10:12 am:

    I have seen labels flying around for the US Freedom Caucus and the shutdown stuff. Applies to these guys too. The Illinois Freedom caucus and probably the Illinois Republicans can be labeled the Seinfeld coalition. It is about nothing and grievances all the time.


  15. - Sue - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 10:14 am:

    China or no China. The real question is whether the 550 million subsidy is appropriate for 2600 what are relatively low skill jobs


  16. - Homebody - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 10:27 am:

    The ILGOP has basically capitulated to their most extreme members the same way the GOP has nationally. Anyone who wants to run for office in a red district has to play the crazy game, even if behind closed doors they admit privately what is happening.

    The same mess is happening in DC with the House GOP. I keep asking myself how bad it will have to get before some of the more sane right leaning donor CEO types say “hey, maybe economic brinksmanship and stochastic terrorism are worse for business than having clear air regulations” but it just hasn’t happened yet.


  17. - Hank Sauer - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 10:30 am:

    Wow McCarThy mention. Time for a boss tweed mention as well. I hope the plant works but its illinois so skepticism warranted


  18. - Norseman - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 10:31 am:

    The new motto of the IL MAGA GOP:

    “doubling down on your own irrelevance.”

    No jobs for MAGA areas that involve Chiinna, vaccines, factual history books, drag queen venues, etc. … Their afraid of these bogey men.


  19. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 10:36 am:

    If Republicans are looking for threats to national security they should start with their presidential frontrunner. The Chinese didn’t foment an insurrection and daily tear at democracy via the big election lie.


  20. - Suburban Mom - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 11:00 am:

    ===what I wouldn’t give to see Chinese commies try to organize a cell in Manteno.===

    Not trying to be flippant, but if that was the goal, wouldn’t they already have one organized at UIUC?


  21. - JS Mill - Monday, Oct 2, 23 @ 12:46 pm:

    =In Republican world, Chinese connected company investment in Illinois under Democrat administration bad, same investment under Republican administration good.=

    The maga thought leader makes all of his kitsch in china, same with his daughter.

    =The real question is whether the 550 million subsidy is appropriate for 2600 what are relatively low skill jobs=

    “We want Illinois to be competitive”= Rauner when lowering wages and giving tax breaks

    “Illinois is too competitive”- when governor lands jobs but he ain’t a gop governor.


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