Detroit and China are likely to be mentioned in the same sentence more often after this weeks state visit

Detroit and China are likely to be mentioned in the same sentence more often after this week's state visit

Arguably the most globally newsworthy event this week was the long-awaited four-day state visit of Chinese president Hu Jintao to the United States where the programme included a three line whip from US president Barack Obama on down through secretary of state Hilary Clinton to many lower administration ranks, all to greet the visitor on the White House lawn and make him feel welcome.

There's been plenty of media and blogger coverage of the nature and tone of the comprehensive programme of talks and organised events - some sticky moments in DC as yuan revaluation and human rights reached the agenda - but, reportedly, a warmer welcome in Chicago, trade centre of the vast Midwest farm belt, from both officialdom, led by Windy City mayor Richard Daley, and local media, for the man whose country bought, I learned today, over half the soybeans exported by the United States last year.

China is, of course, now a major creditor of the US while the latter in turn was the fifth-largest overseas investor in the former last year, pumping in US$4.1bn, up 13.3% on 2009, according to Reuters. So you'd want to make The Boss feel at home and the two countries, as the news agency noted in a lengthy report today, have close business ties, though there is a large trade imbalance in China's favour - $270bn last year, according to US data. Chinese exports to the US include household electronics, furniture and textiles, while cars, steel, heavy machinery, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and aircraft go the other way - 200 Boeings alone are on order, according to reports this week.

Major US companies operating in China include General Electric, Coca-Cola and Microsoft and we in the autobiz know all about the successful GM (SAIC) and Ford (Changan and Jiangling) joint ventures making largely western designed vehicles for Chinese buyers plus, of course, Chrysler, whose Jeep venture begun back in the 1980s was one of the first to take advantage of new Chinese administration thinking about cooperation with western industry following the cracking of the ice in Sino-US relations attributable to the late president Richard Nixon.

Therefore it was intriguing to see Ford this week quickly denying plans to export Chinese-made Ford brand vehicles to emerging markets from the Changan JV while, almost in the same breath, and coinciding with Hu's visit to its home turf, admitting firmly eyeing US-made exports to China. Think that's the final word on that? Me neither.

All of this, and the daily appearance of the word 'China' on just-auto, and our three sister sites covering food, drinks and style, prompted editorial director Chris Brook-Carter to pen a guest editorial putting the country under the microscope. If you missed it, it's here.

In other news, and still with Ford and GM for a moment, it was encouraging to see yet more NAFTA plant investment as company restructuring and model rejuvenation plans move on another notch while Chrysler and the EPA have taken a fresh look at the hybrid, borrowing technology from other vehicle sectors.

And we've been interviewing more top GM execs - Vauxhall's chief on sponsorship and vice-chairman Steve Girsky.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor