Did anyone think the governor would land in China, shake some hands, talk up Connecticut’s nice products, exchange gifts and come home?
Not Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Midway through leading a small delegation of economic development officials to the world’s largest nation, Malloy is certainly doing those things, but he’s also pushing hard for Chinese investment in Connecticut, everything from biotech partnerships to buildings.
And he’s dealing with global issues, as well.
“Malloy was eloquent and comfortable amid a panel of high powered Chinese energy policy leaders, environment activists, economists and a moderator from the Economist,” said Matthew Nemerson, CEO of the Connecticut Technology Council, referring to a session at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin.
“Malloy started out with a geopolitical comment noting that if the USA and China both were energy independent it would be one major issue that we would avoid a source of future conflicts,” Nemerson said in an email Wednesday morning, which was late Thursday in China.
That’s our Dan, defusing global conflict while he’s over there.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Malloy didn’t talk much about energy, though he said he was on the panel, and that he compared Chinese and U.S. energy use.
He’s the first sitting Connecticut governor to visit China since William A. O’Neill established a sister province relationship with Shandong in 1987, and he’s openly miffed about that.
“Quite frankly we kind of dropped the ball. We do things, but we don’t do them consistently,” Malloy said. “We have to rebuild our relationship with our sister province.”
To be sure, state delegations have visited China, including one in March with Nemerson, John Schuyler from Marcum LLP and Peter Longo from Connecticut Innovations. And of course, United Technologies Corp., Xerox and other multinationals have established a strong presence there.
Malloy mentioned that Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini is participating in the economic forum, as both Aetna and Cigna push to expand in Asia.
For Connecticut, the goal is a combination of attracting investment and selling exports in precision manufacturing, finance, insurance and bioscience.
China’s middle class, numbering 300 million people, could increase by 800 million in the next 20 years, Malloy said, adding, “there’s no way that happens without more importation.”
Malloy referred to a doubling or a tripling of exports to China, which is the state’s 5th largest export destination according to U.S. Commerce Department figures. But those figures, which show about $1 billion a year to China from this state, are not reliable, as they do not track goods from their source. Grain is said to be among the state’s largest exports, perhaps because of ownership by hedge funds.
As for Chinese private investment, he said, that would have been unheard of just a decade ago. Now, he — and other governors, of course — are giving U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke a list of possible investment deals.
The call was interrupted exactly as Malloy was talking about security, in connection with the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in a protest there overnight, leading some to speculate that Chinese officials cut off the call because of the topic. When he got back on the call, Malloy said security had not been tightened as a result.
Connecticut has some names familiar in China — Yale, Xerox, Otis, Sikorsky and Mark Twain, who has a statue there — but the state is behind its competitors, Malloy said.
Maryland, for example, where Gov. Martin O’Malley is a friend of Malloy’s: “They have offices in China,” he said. “In Shanghai they have as many as 20 people.”
Those who know Malloy know he won’t stand for that, especially now that UConn falls directly below The University of Maryland in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Expect state job postings soon for Beijing.
Listen to Malloy’s call with the media: