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China Comes To The Auto Show To Be A Princess, Too


A Piece of Cloud is a perfect Chinese car that combines poetry and motion. It comes in red, yellow,
and light green.


by Mike Wrathell



"He who considers himself right is not illustrious;
He who brags will have no merit;
He who boasts will not endure."

Tao Te Ching

DETROIT -- It is hard to blame China for wanting to crack the North American auto market. Western nations have been marketing in China for centuries, first with mind-warping drugs and now with automobiles. China has returned the favor with Wal-Mart do-dads and, later this year, ZX Auto will be the first of four to six Chinese auto makers to launch cars, trucks, and SUVs into North America, first Mexico, then the U.S. and Canada.

It is easier to launch in Mexico as their safety and quality requirements are not as high and tight as Northern North America, but China is hard at work to meet those specs, too. They say politics makes strange bedfellows, well, so does business.

It has been a long time since the Japanese officially started World War II by attacking Shanghai in 1931, and my distant cousin Claire Chennault helped our ally China with his Flying Tigers. Still, Changfeng Group Corp.'s alliance with Mitsubishi of Japan who used American POWs for slave labor in their gold mine on Sado Island in violation of the Geneva Convention is a bit hard to swallow. Mitsubishi also reportedly murdered 387 Allied prisoners at the end of the war to cover it up by blowing up the entrance to the mine. I was not too happy that Engler and Granholm have wooed Mitsubishi, too, in all fairness....Still, I will never buy a Mitsubishi, nor will I buy a Changfeng.

The Chinese auto company that intrigues me the most is Li Shi Guang Ming Automotive Design Co., Ltd. from Beijing. Mr. Guang Ming Li is CEO and Chief Designer. As a fellow artist, I could tell just by hearing him speak that he was not one of your stuffed shirts like Leo Iacocca or Dick Cheney. His speech Tuesday at the Sheraton Detroit Riverside Hotel (the former Pontchartrain) was easily the best of the bunch. Over 200 auto executives paid nearly 400 bucks a pop to learn about the topic of "China's Emerging Automobile Market." The event was hosted by "China Automotive Review" magazine and China Business Update and chaired by Dr. Wayne W.J. Xing.

Down in the basement of Cobo Hall, subterranean like a giant sturgeon swimming at the bottom of The Detroit River lies "The Detroit Fish," a beautiful electric car by Mr. Guang Ming Li. With its domed roof and ultra-modern design, it looks like it has evolved from the Beetle, but with a distinctly Chinese flair. It seats 5 and has a top speed of 45 mph. It is perfect for a world that is in need of cars that do not add to global warming. Mr. Li may save the world if the Fish catches on in China. With 1.3 billion people, electric cars are the way to go.

Li Shi Guang Ming Automotive Design Co., Ltd. also exhibited two smaller electric cars: "The Book of Songs" and "A Piece of Cloud." Also with rounded, post-Beetle roofs and bodies, they are a bit smaller than the Fish, and thus are better suited for pedestrian streets, touring spots, and university campuses. Heck, can I take one to the mall? How about the zoo? I bet attendance would go up at the zoo if you could bring your own little electric car inside!

Mr. Li started his speech on Tuesday with a history of the automobile. Starting with Henry Ford's Model T assembly line in Highland Park, then to Hitler's beloved Beetle that captured the folk imagination of the Germans and then the globe, to the need for China to have a car that is quintessentially Chinese, designed with an aesthetic that comports with Nature if it is to sell like pancakes in Iowa, french fries in Marseilles, and Texas Toast in Amarillo. Mr. Li did not bring his "Tanghua" that exhibited at the Paris Auto Show in 2006, but the three yellow cars he brought were delightful, and in my mind were the three stars of the show. They also come in red and light green. All three cars have a good shot at being the Chinese Model T/Beetle of the new millennium.

Mr. Li defiantly pointed out that America thinks it is "a princess" and is burning up an inordinate amount of
the world's resources, implying it is time for China to join the dance of draining the oil and dooming the
ozone. It is hard to argue with him. To his credit, he has designed small cars that are "green" and will not
unduly contribute to global warming.

The last Chinese auto executive to speak was Mr. Chuanfu Wang, CEO of BYD Co., Ltd. Though not the passionate, creative orator like Mr. Li, Mr. Wang persuasively explained the utility of BYD's electric cars and their lithium batteries. His cars look pretty American. He explained in Chinese (I wore the translation head-set provided) that lithium batteries are thrown in the fire to make sure they do not explode. I guess that has been a problem with lithium batteries, but I am sure they will fix that before an American launch of their vehicles.

In closing, something Mr. Guang Ming Li said in his brilliant oration cannot go unanalyzed. He said that
global warming could "evolve into a military issue" over the "control of resources." It would really suck to go to war with China. Historically, China has been a peaceful nation (I will get to the exception of Tibet, trust me....), leaving its neighbors alone. In all likelihood, we would really have to provoke China for them to want to war with us.

Really, we are natural allies in the war of radical jihadists versus the infidels. China has an Islamic uprising problem in its Westernmost province of Xinjiang. If we don't unnecessarily provoke China, hopefully, we can be partners in fighting the whole "death to the infidel" mentality that is spreading around the world by semi-literate hooligans who take ancient religious texts far too literally, and forget about the love and mercy parts, oh so conveniently.

Thank God that Tamerlane died before he could try to overthrow the Ming Dynasty in 1405 A. D. with his seasoned, powerful army that captured all the lands that Alexander the Great had done centuries earlier. Had Tamerlane conquered China, bin Laden might not have to be hiding in a cave or house in Waziristan.

Which leads me to a little plug for tolerance. I can understand China trying to keep a lid on Islamic extremism, but some religions are not a threat to the State. Sure, Christianity helped bring down Rome, but part of that was bad karma in that the Romans played a large part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But Buddha was not political, he withdrew from society completely and was not a threat at all.

Present-day Christians are not a threat, either. Let them put bumper stickers on their Detroit Fish and Book of Songs. The same with the Falun Gong. I do not hear of any armed uprising by either group.

America and China are both great nations with proud histories. China has every right to want to be "a princess," too. However, America has the right to gently urge greater tolerance of religions that do not threaten China's internal security.

Lastly, I must speak on Tibet and Taiwan. Tibetans are not Chinese and have a wondrous religion and culture that does not threaten China in any perceivable way. I urge China to free Tibet under condition that Tibet promise not to ever threaten China or allow foreign troops on its soil. And, if foreign troops do invade Tibet, to allow Chinese troops to repel them if Tibetan forces are inadequate, upon which China promises to withdraw, again, and without harming any Tibetan or Tibetan property.

In return for this grant of freedom to Tibet, America and our European allies should consider a new attitude toward China's wish to make peace with Taiwan. Although there is a small, indigenous population of 350,000 (composed of ten distinct groups) on Taiwan that is not ethnically Chinese and needs the promise of eternal autonomy, respect, and true freedom, the majority of Taiwanese are from Mainland China. My late distant cousin Claire Chennault (my mother's maiden name is Chenault) was friends with Chiang Kai-shek who helped all Chinese fight the Japanese invaders and who eventually withdrew to Taiwan after the war. Thus, so as not to betray the memory of my cousin and Chiang Kai-shek, and alleviate the rightful fears of present-day Taiwanese, in order for China to reclaim Taiwan, China must promise eternal autonomy and respect to Taiwan, not a 50-year deal like Hong Kong and Macao have.

If China can do that, America and our European allies should not object in the U.N. or anywhere else. Tibet for Taiwan, what do you say, Hu?

There is a Nobel Peace Prize with your name on it if you accept my offer. You may have to share it with the governor of Taiwan and the Dali Lama, though. Can you swallow your pride like the great Chinese philosophers of old: Confucius and Lao Tzu? I know you can, Sir.

Let us be friends and united in fighting our common enemy: Radical Jihadists. It will help Chinese automobile sales in America, too, trust me. And Changfeng, please ask Mitsubishi to apologize for their war crimes or end your alliance with them.'s coverage of the 2008 NAIAS is sponsored by The Omni Detroit Hotel at River Place, The Dow Event Center in Saginaw and by



The Detroit Fish was inspired by The Beetle, but has a gills and a natural feel of a small Chinese
village near a sleuth of panda bears.



The Book of Songs is smaller than The Detroit Fish and perfect for travel in small villages, university
campuses, and zoos.


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