Special Guest Lectures at U of M and MSU

         On Monday afternoon, the Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA) and China Entrepreneur Network sponsored lectures at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.   The audience listened to profound and insightful thoughts from some of the most distinguished authorities on the subject of China’s most vexing economic and social challenges.  The economic challenge is to design a monetary and fiscal policy to insure a soft landing to shrink rather than collapse the looming asset bubble.  The social challenge is how to execute a quality of life upgrade for China’s forgotten rural peasants.

Contemporary Chinese Economic and Social Challenges

       Dr. Tiejun Wen is Executive Dean of the Institute of Advance Studies for Sustainability at Renmin University of China.  Dr. Wen is a world renowned expert on socio-economic and sustainable development issues of rural China, with emphasis in policy studies and long term inclusive growth.  Dr. Wen is recipient of the following awards: the First Rank Award for Science and Technology Progress from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, the First Rank Award for Teaching from the Beijing Municipal Government and CCTV Annual Award of Top 10 Economic Talents.   Dr. Wen has repeatedly been published for his extensive work and has lectured around the world.  Dr. Wen’s talk focused on the understanding of an economic soft landing, how China got where it is, and how that bears on income distribution and environmental conditions.

        The audience was also treated to a presentation from Mr. Jim Cook, a China enthusiast whose journeys have made him as comfortable in the boardroom as the classroom. Mr. Cook is a business strategist who began his career as an MIT Research Engineer.  In the mid-80s, as a Fortune 500 VP/CTO, he introduced CAD/CAM software to help build China’s infrastructure.  Among his numerous China appearances, he represented China at the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Forum.   Recently, Mr. Cook provided the keynote speech at the China Entrepreneur Network’s China Business Challenge conference at the University of Michigan extolling the opportunities for entrepreneurs in rural China.

The Messages for Attendees

        Dr. Wen’s presentation, entitled “The Eco-Integration & Social Innovation For The Crisis Soft-landing”, began with a discussion on capital and physical goods’ flows.  Then, he segued into how those flows and their corresponding capital account surpluses (emerging economies) and deficits (developed countries) are really an exchange of physical goods for paper money (or promises).  Coupled with the flow of goods goes the neglect of the environment and the imbalances in income.

       Dr. Wen went on to show a relationship of economic recoveries to burdens placed on the rural communities.  All these effects, growth, imbalances of capital accounts, growing inequality of income, destruction of the environment,  repeated burdening of the rural people, are unsustainable, hence the compelling need for a soft landing!   

       Dr. Wen offered some soft landing hope in the form of propping up the villages as a means for economic stability, for example.  Another, was to have the countryside take the place of the low labor that is shrinking in urban areas.  Yet another, was to shift consumption from developed countries and, now, the urban areas, to expand to include the rural areas.  The combined effect is to have the rural areas provide a cushion to the stressed Chinese economy, but this time in a way beneficial, not burdensome, to the peasants.

        Mr. Cook’s presentation, entitled “Good Horse Sense Goes A Long Way in the Countryside”, spoke of the diversity in China’s villages, the customs and way of life that remain and how one might learn more about their needs than simply believing one knows what’s best for them.  Mr. Cook drew upon his one year in a Chinese village, his training of horses, his rural upbringing, and his years as a management consultant going into resistive cultures.  His lessons were be quick to listen, slow to advise.   Be sure to look up and not down.  Trust comes from reputation that takes time and is best brewed slowly and never aggressively. 

       The countryside is complex and lessons learned in one village may be completely irrelevant in the next.  Diversity is at the core of sustaining the countryside’s existence. Destroying diversity destroys the countryside; nurturing diversity nurtures the countryside!  To dramatize the differences of the countryside to the city, Mr. Cook likened the former to a baby and the later to a machine.  One thrives on adaptive nurturing, the other lasts through strict compliance.  Hence, perhaps, never the twain shall meet.


       Sometimes it’s startling how much one can learn in such a short period of time.  Many in the audiences of Monday’s lectures came away with personal insights from the academicians and the entrepreneurs that reveal the dynamics of China’s future.  The sponsors, the Detroit Chinese Business Association and the China Entrepreneur Network arranged and supported these lectures so the audiences could gain insight from some of the foremost experts on China.  For such an opportunity, one can only say “Thank You!”             

ROBERT E. MATTLER, Associate Broker, Attorney and LEED AP BD+C, is Director of Green Brokerage at Armada Real Estate Services in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He speaks, writes and blogs about emerging green real estate issues and economic development in Michigan and elsewhere.  For more information, contact Bob at Armada Real Estate (248) 855-1221; or by e-mail: