Flawed Math and False Promises: An 18 month review of the Foxconn Soap Opera
The Milwaukee Independent has closely followed the Foxconn story since the news was announced 18 months ago on July 26, 2017. With our past experience of doing business in China with the Chinese, Wisconsin’s business dealings with the tech giant were entirely predictable for how bad things would turn out.
At the moment, no one knows what is going on with the promised factory in Mount Pleasant. There is a sense of uncertainty enveloping the plans for its operations. Reports have steadily shown that Foxconn will not produce what they signed an agreement for in order to get an unprecedented $4 billion in payments from Wisconsin tax payers.
Conflicting statements have the factory’s construction on hold, then moving forward, then on hold again. Even to the casual observer, the troubled project is an utter mess.
In an early report, we used the abandoned Northridge Mall as a case study to explain how typical Chinese companies do business. It was a cautionary tale of undelivered promises, that held the development site and the surrounding economically challenged area as a hostage for nearly a decade.
The Foxconn saga has followed the typical business pattern step-by-step, from the Chinese boasts and offers of friendship, to the amateurish and inept negotiations by the Wisconsin leadership that landed the project without understanding who they were doing business with.
Identifying any single factor as the root cause of renewed uncertainty would be an oversimplification. Many variables are likely to influence an economic development proposal of this scale, which spans continents and cultures and is unfolding during a volatile time in state, national, and global politics. Four key factors are contributing to the questions about Foxconn’s future in Wisconsin.
- Foxconn’s priority is its bottom line.
- Foxconn is caught in the crossfire of trade volleys between the U.S. and China.
- Foxconn may not have expected the American public’s high expectations.
- Foxconn’s opaque approach provides fodder for guessing games.
These articles are a collection of Milwaukee Independent reports from the past year and a half. The headlines alone tell the story that is far from over.
“If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
– Misattributed to Sun Tzu