China bashing should soon subside

Updated: 2012-10-24 08:16

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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China bashing should soon subside

In their second televised debate last week, US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney spared no effort in their attempts to blame China for all the United States' troubles. So their performance during the third debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Monday evening came as something of a surprise.

Romney once again made his "Day One" oath to label China a currency manipulator and Obama touted his success in bringing World Trade Organization cases against the Chinese mainland. But, for the first time in the three debates, both Obama and Romney mentioned that the US and China can be partners.

Both candidates, who have made it a habit to talk tough on dealing with China, have denied this in the two previous debates, as well as in their numerous campaign speeches and advertisements.

However, while those who have felt disgusted by the candidates' unseemly China-bashing rhetoric during the campaign will have breathed a sigh of relief after Monday's debate, it is a pity that the two candidates did not elaborate their China policies.

To many analysts from China and the US, the complex relationship between the world's two largest economies is the single most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century and deserved far more serious attention during the three debates.

I watched the debate on Monday evening in the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where Foreign Affairs magazine hosted a talk before the debate.

The two panelists, Daniel Drezner, a professor of international studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, and Rachel Kleinfeld, founding president and CEO of Truman National Security Project, pointed out the many absurdities the two candidates had uttered on China and on many other global issues during their campaigning.

While Kleinfeld criticized the candidates' isolationist comments and China bashing, Drezner lamented that the candidates had made such foolish foreign-policy comments when foreign policy really counts for very little in US elections.

During Monday night's debate, Obama again said his punitive tariffs on Chinese tires two years ago had saved US jobs. But as Drezner pointed out before the debate that action of Obama cost $1 million per job saved in the US, according to a study by the Peterson Institute.

Drezner pointed out that although the two candidates believe that talking tough on China economically may resonate with some voters, many voters are becoming increasing cynical about their China rhetoric.

Even Marco Rubio, the promising young Republican senator from Florida who introduced Romney at the Republican National Convention about two months ago, has tried to distance himself from Romney these days on the issue of labeling China a currency manipulator, fearing it will trigger a trade war.

More Republicans have voiced similar concerns, not to mention the strong opposition against labeling China a currency manipulator from the business community in the US.

Perhaps this is why the two candidates have finally toned down their China bashing a bit and started to mention working and collaborating with China.

Obama has talked a lot about working together with China during the past three years. But such words disappeared after he started his re-election campaign, as he tried to show that he was just as tough as Romney on China.

Former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both talked extremely tough on China during their presidential campaigns. But once elected, they abandoned their campaign rhetoric.

Thankfully, that will probably be the case after the election on Nov 6.

The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. E-mail: chenweihua

(China Daily 10/24/2012 page8)