Byline: Anna Marie Kukec Daily Herald Business Writer
One of the bright spots for Motorola Inc. has been its Motorola China Electronics Ltd. Division, and its role as China's largest foreign investor.
In fact, Motorola's new $1.48 billion semiconductor plant in Tianjin, northern China, is expected to start producing chips during this second quarter.
Since 1986, Motorola China has invested $3.4 billion there, and Motorola has become No. 1 in China's handset market. Sales soared 37 percent to $3.8 billion last year, one of the few profitable areas for the beleaguered electronics giant. Motorola exports from China also rose 32 percent to $1.6 billion last year.
However, U.S.-China relations were heavily strained this week after a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet.
As leaders from both countries meet to resolve the situation, Motorola executives are closely watching the events unfold to see if they might impact its success behind the Great Wall and its 12,000 employees there.
"This is a political issue and not a commercial issue," Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Weyrauch said. "We hope these issues can be resolved by our two governments as soon as possible to mutual satisfaction."
In China, commercial billboards and TV ads for Motorola products are prominent.
If the conflict with China escalates and spurs anti-American feeling, could the company become a target?
Xiaobing Tang, professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, said that's unlikely.
China relies on exports to the United States and on U.S. investment to grow its economy.
"There is every reason for the Chinese to maintain a good relationship with the U.S. and to keep their economy from faltering," Tang said. "However, when it comes to issues of national security and foreign diplomacy, we really enter a rather murky zone, and this is true for both the U.S. and China."
Time differences that affect when official statements are made and cultural differences …