Shanghai (AFP) - A Chinese auto glass tycoon has caused a stir by shifting part of his empire to the United States and setting up a factory in Ohio, citing high taxes and soaring labour costs at home.
Cao Dewang's $600-million investment comes after Donald Trump threatened to declare Beijing a currency manipulator and slap 45 percent punitive tariffs on Chinese imports to protect American jobs.
The 70-year-old tycoon's decision to open a glass factory in the eastern American state of Ohio in October -- a rare case of jobs being exported from China to the US -- triggered an outpouring of criticism on social media.
The phrase "Cao Dewang has escaped" became a hot topic, generating nearly 10 million views on the Twitter-like Weibo microblog and many comments urging China to "not let Cao Dewang run away".
Cao's Fuyao Glass Industry Group -- a supplier to big names including Volkswagen and General Motors -- claims to be the biggest exporter of auto glass in the world, reporting 2.6 billion yuan ($370 million) profits last year.
Cao defended himself in an interview with the Beijing News Wednesday, saying he "did not run and will not run. The centre of my business is in China because I'm Chinese".
"I'm a business man and I'm doing business in the US," he said. "I'm merely reminding the government" that taxes and labour costs are too high.
In an interview with the state-owned China Business News last week, Cao said the country was home to the "world's highest taxes" and that the manufacturing industry suffered under taxes 35 percent higher than those imposed by the US.
Cao is a high-school dropout who began building his fortune as a salesman for a local glassmaker.
The Fuyao group owns production lines in nearly a dozen Chinese cities including the capital Beijing and the commercial hub Shanghai. It also has a factory in Russia, according to its website.
Defending Cao's remarks, the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily said Thursday that the fact that "entrepreneurs dare to raise problems means (they) still hold confidence in China’s economy".
Cao’s comments reflect "strong personal feelings" but they touch on "some of the deep conflicts and problems in China’s economy", it said.