US state of Illinois eyes closer ties with China

World Today

Bilateral trade between China and the U.S. is at an all-time high. Foreign direct investment between China and the United States surpassed $60 billion last year.

The state of Illinois has a long history of business with China but the state hopes to develop closer ties in the future.  

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

A brand new railcar plant is beginning to take shape on the outskirts of Chicago. This is a $100 million investment by the Chinese company CRRC. Over the next few years, the company will roll out an initial order of 400 railcars here. It is just the latest example of the growing trade between Chicago and China.

“There is major investments going on around the city that are indications of a strong partnership in Chicago. And there is enthusiasm behind this. Chicago really embraces the relationship with China in a strong way,” Andrew Spinelli, World Business Chicago said.

It is hoped that the railcar contract will provide a much-needed jolt to an area that has seen dozens of factories close in recent years.

“We are excited to be part of the fabric of Chicago. And I am confident that other Chinese companies may see our experiences and the great growth opportunities in the U.S. will see a good environment to do business with. And we have already shared our experiences with some of the companies in the industry,” Kevin Qu, assistant president of CRRC America said. 

Exports from Illinois to China reached over $5 billion last year but the investment into the state has also been significant.

Few Chinese companies have been in the U.S. for as long as Wanxiang. Based in Elgin, the auto-parts company, established a U.S. headquarters here in 1994.

While Hainan Airlines is among fifty Chinese companies to position their U.S. headquarters in Illinois.

“Chicago is not only business friendly, it is also Chinese friendly. So all the experiences are good and I believe it is a good place to do business,” Pubin Liang, Hainan Airlines North America managing director said.

The close ties are felt not only in business. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has enjoyed a long association with China exchange students. Ten percent of the student body is now Chinese.

“We all become richer because of it. I think the diversity of perspectives is critical for us to do what we need to do We bring more perspectives to the problems we are all facing. I think that just makes us stronger,” said John Wilkin, Interim Provost of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

With both the mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois planning further trips to China, the state and the city are hopeful of building on those business and cultural ties in the future.