Michigan Township Officials Recalled Over Support for Chinese-Backed Battery Plant
In a recent twist of local politics, five members of a seven-member township board near Big Rapids, Michigan, were recalled over their support for tax breaks for Gotion, Inc., a Chinese-owned company planning a $2.4 billion electric vehicle battery parts facility. The controversial project aims to create 2,350 jobs in Mecosta County. Green Township Supervisor Jim Chapman, who voted in favor of the tax breaks, along with four other board members, was recalled, emphasizing the divisive nature of the Gotion project. Two other township board members chose to resign rather than contest the recall election.
Lori Brock, a Green Township resident leading the recall efforts, expressed joy at the successful recall, claiming it reflects the community’s opposition to the Gotion project. Critics have raised concerns about the Chinese connection, as Gotion Inc. is a subsidiary of Gotion High Tech, a China-based company mandated to “carry out party activities in accordance with the constitution of the Communist Party of China.” The ties to the Chinese government have triggered backlash from residents, political activists, and Republican lawmakers.
Gotion’s U.S. subsidiary is based in California, and its board comprises members from Germany, the U.S., and China. Gotion is partly-owned by Volkswagen.
Despite the recall, Gotion remains committed to its manufacturing plant project, emphasizing its multinational status and dedication to creating jobs in Michigan. The controversy surrounding the Gotion project has revolved around issues such as the secrecy of the deal, concerns about its location on agricultural land, and fears about national security implications.
In neighboring Big Rapids Township, Supervisor Bill Stanek was also recalled due to his support for the Gotion project. Despite being the lone supporter on his board, the opposition from fellow board members led Gotion to pause its plans for constructing the facility that would straddle Green and Big Rapids townships. Stanek defended his stance, stating that if Gotion were to establish its presence, it would be worth any personal sacrifice.
Residents in the area have voiced worries about Gotion’s ties to China and the lack of transparency in the deal. The recall results have ignited hope among opponents that the new board will demand more accountability from Gotion, focusing on environmental impacts, labor law compliance, and national security considerations. However, key aspects of the agreement between Gotion and Green Township, such as the 30-year tax abatement and the $175 million in tax incentives, have already been solidified, posing challenges for the new board in altering the course set by its predecessors.