Elgin business leader sees positive outcome of meeting with Hu

  • Elgin-based Wanxiang America Corp. is a distributor of automotive parts.

      Elgin-based Wanxiang America Corp. is a distributor of automotive parts. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Wanxiang Group has worldwide annual revenues of about $12 billion, including about $2 billion from the Wanxiang America Corp. operation in Elgin.

      Wanxiang Group has worldwide annual revenues of about $12 billion, including about $2 billion from the Wanxiang America Corp. operation in Elgin. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin-based Wanxiang America Corp. is a division the Wanxiang Group, which has acquired or invested in roughly 20 American companies, bringing total employment to about 5,000 workers, possibly the most American workers employed by a Chinese company.

      Elgin-based Wanxiang America Corp. is a division the Wanxiang Group, which has acquired or invested in roughly 20 American companies, bringing total employment to about 5,000 workers, possibly the most American workers employed by a Chinese company. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/19/2011 8:12 PM

Pin Ni, president of Wanxiang American Corp. in Elgin, said Wednesday that the historic visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the White House provided "candid" conversations for leaders of American and Chinese companies.

Ni accompanied his father-in-law, Lu Guanqiu, chairman of auto and industrial parts provider Hangzhou-based Wanxiang Group, as they and other chief executives discussed international trade and related issues aimed at improving relations between the two countries.

 

Hu also is expected to arrive in Chicago on Friday to ceremoniously sign export deals worth about $45 billion, including a $19 billion purchase of aircraft made by Chicago-based Boeing Co. The deals also involve an agreement by China to require its state agencies to use legal software, a provision sought by Microsoft and other software makers, Bloomberg News reported.

"It was very positive," Ni, 46, told the Daily Herald in a phone interview after Obama's news conference. "We discussed the relationship between China and the USA and there were some differences of opinion. But the key is, how do we work together to reconcile those differences?"

Many of their discussions focused on trade, intellectual property rights of U.S. products, and the value of the U.S. dollar. Ni would not elaborate on details of those talks.

"China and the USA have a long-term journey," Ni said. "Nothing will happen overnight. But this is one of many important steps. We're glad we were a part of it."

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Ni, who was born and raised in China, earned a master's degree in business at Zhejiang University, in the Zhejiang Province of China. He also began working at Wanxiang and married the chairman's daughter. The couple now have three children and live in South Barrington.

In 1992, Ni came to the United States to pursue a doctorate in economics. But he instead began working for his father-in-law again when the American subsidiary was established in Wood Dale in 1993.

In 2001, the company moved to a larger headquarters and distribution center in Elgin with about 35 workers.

Today, Wanxiang Group has worldwide annual revenues of about $12 billion, including about $2 billion from the Elgin operations, Ni said.

Wanxiang also has acquired or invested in roughly 20 American companies, bringing their company's total to about 5,000 workers, possibly the most American workers employed by a Chinese company, Ni said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Wanxiang also opened Wanxiang Energy, a $12.5 million, 40,000-square-foot solar panel manufacturing plant in Rockford, last summer, according to the Rockford Register Star.

While Wanxiang continues to grow, Ni hopes Chinese-American relationships also continue on a positive path with Wednesday's meetings.

"They help bridge the gap between China and the USA," Ni said. "It's all about improving communication."

Progressive manufacturers see these meetings and Hu's visit as an opportunity to build stronger economic ties with China, said Mary Rose Hennessy, executive director of Business and Industry Services at the University of Illinois in Naperville.

"They want to continue to open markets in the rapidly expanding Chinese economy," said Hennessy. "Manufacturing is leading the way in the U.S. recovery, and is expected to continue to grow; manufacturing is now creating more jobs than it is losing. A great deal of that is due to exports, and China is an integral part of that success."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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