Harleys in China
By Jennifer Harper
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Clad in leather and flanked by fans of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker helps foster the love for the Milwaukee-based classic in China.
A noisy cultural moment, and a lucrative one: China has embraced Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Witness the fact that 1,000 Chinese Harley lovers recently roared into Qian Dao Lake, Zhejiang Province, decked out in black leather, skull masks and Viking warrior helmets. Or no helmets. The Beijing-style bikers were there to celebrate the 110th birthday of the iconic, all-American brand.
And they are devoted. Six official H.O.G. chapters — that’s “Harley Owner Groups” — are scattered across China.
None of this has been lost on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Harley-Davidson headquarters are in Milwaukee. Under Mr. Walker’s watch, Wisconsin managed to export $1.5 billion worth of local products to China last year, from the beloved Harleys to Wisconsin-grown ginseng, Oshkosh trucks and fancy, locally made bath fittings. As part of a trade mission, Mr. Walker himself journeyed to Shanghai for a flashy Harley party, and the opening of a yet another new Harley dealership in Tianjian. Yes, Mr. Walker wore black leather everything, aviator sunglasses and was astride a chopper of formidable proportions.
He also managed to snag an hour long meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. And of note: China has risen to a $250 billion market for U.S. companies, according to the U.S.-China Business Council.
“I have seen tremendous achievements in urban development, a vibrant economy and fabulous people in pursuit of personal freedom,” Mr. Walker said in a recent recap of his experiences, noting that the Chinese have become very attracted “to the leisure motorcycling lifestyle.”