Plans to Build a Chinese City in Michigan Worry Many

By | May 10, 2012

China City in Michigan(Ann Arbor) – A Chinese backed company, Sino-Michigan Properties LLC, recently purchased 200 acres of land outside of Ann Arbor. Their intention seems to be to build a self-sufficient Chinese city, right here in Michigan. This would include residential housing units, commercial units, and manufacturing all contained in what they hope to be a special economic zone, a model that the Chinese government has used to great effect on mainland China. now it appears they want to spread that model around the world.

The company paid just under $2 million dollars for 200 acres in Milan last year. The 415 unit housing complex they are building will not be marketed to the public, but rather to Chinese citizens. They also have plans for a Chinese cultural center to be built in what some people are referring to “China City”.

Since the owners of Sino-Michigan Properties LLC are not residents of Michigan they are required to have a registered agent located in the state. Their registered agent is Arthur Dudley II, of the Detroit based legal firm Butzel Long. He has declined to comment on the development plans.

Sino-Michigan Properties LLC appears to be setting up shop in Michigan to avoid the costly transportation issues related to manufacturing goods in China to be shipped to the US. This presence in Michigan is expected to alleviate that to some degree.

This is not the first foothold that Chinese business has gained in the US. They have bought a financial interest in 600,000 acres of natural gas and oil fields in Texas, they are exploring a 30,000 acre industrial zone in Boise Idaho, they have started the process of putting a power plant in Toledo Ohio on land they own, and the list goes on.

The Chinese have been buying real estate in the US for awhile now, but this move into infrastructural areas such as power plants, manufacturing facilities, oil and gas fields etc., are concerning to many residents. The long term implications are unclear, but we do know that we’re moving into uncharted territory by allowing an enemy country to gain such a significant foothold within our borders.

To better understand their long term strategy here, it might be worth looking at the Chinese game of Go (click here for the Wikipedia article on Go). Go, or weiqi as it is known in China is a game of strategy, in the way that many westerners consider chess to be a game of strategy. The goals are very different though.

In chess, the goal is to attack and capture pieces with the goal of forcing the king to surrender. However, the goal of weiqi is simply to control territory, thereby controlling your opponent. You do not need to waste resources trying to capture your opponent, because if you control their territory, you control your opponent anyway.

The real world advantage of adopting an eastern weiqi strategy versus a western chess strategy is that you are able to exert more control while expending fewer resources. You can simply look to US efforts to exert influence in the Middle East as an example of this. Now ask yourself how many resources China is wasting with their approach?

Before you dismiss the analogy of a game to the recent territorial grabs by China here in the US, understand that the game of weiqi has been used for over 2,000 years to train diplomats and business men in China in matters of strategy. Sun Tzu’s Art of War is founded on weiqi principals, and it shapes everything they do  in business and politics. The territorial grab we’re seeing now is all just part of the game.

7 thoughts on “Plans to Build a Chinese City in Michigan Worry Many

  1. B Willoughby


    Just wow.

    I’ve been playing Go since college and never really thought about how it applies to modern business and politics. That’s scary if you’re right.

  2. Daniel Brackins

    This piece has strong hint of jingoism and clearly leans toward American exceptionalism. The author fails to point out that the United States has engaged in nation building around the world. Except that the US has primarily used force, and China purchased the land. The fact that US citizens continually benefit from Chinese manufacturing is also overlooked. By creating such a division, the author is only furthering misguided beliefs that only serve to hurt the US consumers via increased costs.

    1. J Vincent Burr Post author

      If you’ll notice in the second to last paragraph I pointed that out. The approach that the US has taken to exert influence has been much less efficient than the approach that China has used. That’s the point of the article.

      Your opinion that US consumers are helped by Chinese manufacturing is one that has been challenged by many economists. Consumers get lower prices, but they also end up with lower wages as a result of job loss.

      1. Antonio Reyes


        Can you explain the reasoning behind your assumption that the US is less efficient than China in exerting its influence over other nations? Need I remind you of the US involvement in the middle east, Southeast Asia, East Asia as well as Latin America?

        1. J Vincent Burr Post author

          I’m simply looking at the billions of dollars and thousands of wasted lives that the US has sacrificed in order to exert their influence, whereas the Chinese are primarily using non-violent and less expensive trade to exert their influence.

  3. Daniel Brackins

    Yes you point out in that paragraph that the Chinese strategy is more efficient. However, you downplay the US role abroad relative to China. If the point of your article was to show that the US should demonstrate similar principles as the Chinese, it was not evident in your thesis.

    An appeal to some economists won’t help the argument as there are also many economists who disagree.

    It is true that the average Chinese worker earns a lower hourly wage than the average American worker. Our workers (in general) enjoy better training, as well as the use of more capital and superior legal institutions. American laborers are hence more productive, and that’s why they get paid more.

    It is also true that in certain industries, American firms can’t stay competitive with Chinese imports if they have to pay wages attractive to US workers. Yet that is exactly what should happen when two countries trade with each other; relative prices and wages channel the workers in each country into those industries in which they have a comparative advantage. If cheap Chinese imports didn’t put some US manufacturers out of business, then what would be the point of trading with China in the first place? You trade with others so you don’t have to make everything yourself; it’s a benefit to all parties involved.

    Ultimately you can’t punish individuals for choosing to work at a lower price nor can you punish individuals willing to buy cheaper products. By advocating for protectionist polices you are essentially undermining free choice.

    1. J Vincent Burr Post author

      I agree that economists have differing views on the matter. I simply raised the objection based off of your assertion that being able to buy cheap goods benefits US consumers more than the loss of jobs harms them. It’s the old argument that goods can never be cheap enough when you don’t have a job and no money to buy the goods.

      Also, should we look at the standard of living of the average US consumer now, versus 30 years ago when we were more “isolationist” as you say? I understand those issues are not strictly trade related, but I think it’s impossible to say we are better off thanks to our trade with China.


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