This editorial appeared in the Sacramento Bee in December, but we reprint it here to offer insight into ZAP’s electric vehicle strategy in China over the past 13 years.
With all the irritations between the United States and China, it is worth noting some opportunities for “competitive cooperation.”
The latest agreements signed this month between the United States and China should make U.S. businesses more competitive in selling everything from industrial machinery and telecom devices to equipment for large-scale wind farms.
For example, companies that participate in the construction of wind farms will now be able to participate in projects to install wind farms in China. Until now, they were not able to participate because their non-Chinese experience could not be used for qualification as a bidder on a China-based project. The new commitment by China will allow those companies to gain access.
And as Jennifer Turner of the Wilson Center has said, in many cases, combining the strengths of innovative U.S. technologies and Chinese manufacturing capacity can be an important driver of economic growth and jobs here and in China.
But we have to be looking for commonalities and opportunities. For example, California and China are earthquake prone. China’s going to need to build 30,000 hospitals in the next 10 years. California has a lot of health care companies and a lot of experience building hospitals to meet earthquake standards. That is an exportable skill set.
Here is one small example. California has many of the leading companies and innovators in the electric-vehicle industry.
Santa Rosa-based ZAP Electric Vehicles announced an agreement during Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s September trade mission to China whereby new plug-in vehicle technologies designed in California, combined with China-based manufacturing, will allow ZAP to provide electric charging stations, battery swap-out stations, as well as electric vehicle maintenance and repair depots in Shanghai’s Yangpu District.
Of the five biggest solar plants in China, infrastructure (such as polysilicon production equipment, crystalline ingot growth systems and fusion furnaces) comes from the United States, creating jobs here. Certainly, manufacturing solar panels in China creates jobs in China. But jobs also are created here at the project location.
The picture is much more complex than the “shipping jobs to China” slogan we hear every election season. If we embrace the concept of “cooperative competition” – even as we continue as a nation to seek enforceable agreements against pirating, protectionism and manipulated currency in China – we can take advantage of our strengths to make economic progress during this time of difficult economic transition.