As the presidential race heats up, many of us (or maybe it’s just me) are wondering what the candidates’ stance on China will be. Mitt Romney has already made his ground clear on the matter, pledging to take a tougher position on the PRC as currency manipulators and thieves of intellectual property. From what is shown so far, Governor Romney has taken, or promises to take a hardline stance on the Chinese, and shows no reservation on sparking a “trade war” with the Asian giant. According to Mr. Romney, we won’t be “starting” a trade war with China, we are “already in a trade war” with China.
What about President Obama? Prior to his presidency, Mr. Obama’s stance on China was neither friendly nor hostile. In the words of the president (before he was president), “They’re [China] neither our enemy or our friend. They’re competitors.” In the same statement, President Obama also stated that his presidential aims were to establish relationships with the PRC and help stabilize the region. From this point of view, the president’s stance in previous years were less cynical, and more optimistic. This optimism however, will change after his inauguration, and a swift change in policy would quickly follow.
President Obama would quickly learn the hard way that nice guys finish last. After being harassed by the Chinese Navy in the Southeast Asia Sea in 2008 (the Impeccable Incident), snuffed by the Chinese leadership at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, and the ongoing issue of currency manipulation (just to name a few), the president’s stance on China would take a turn for the strong. After his return from Copenhagen, President Obama would sell billions of dollars in arms to Taiwan, a direct response to the Chinese after Copenhagen. Beijing responded with waves of hostility and harsh words, which the president coyly brushed off.
This was just the start, however. In the latter half of 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement in Hanoi declaring the Southeast Asia Sea a “national interest” of the United States, a statement that greatly angered the Chinese, who were desperately trying to keeping the U.S. out of Asian affairs. The Obama administration would then release statements saying that as time goes on, the U.S.’s role in Asia would only get bigger. Earlier this year, January 2012, the president would make promises to bring jobs back to America and launch investigations into China’s unfair trade practices. Considering the president’s actions in the past several years, the Obama Administration’s stance has become quite clear.
Where does this leave Governor Romney? For now, we can only say that his stance on China looks promising. He has for a long time made strong statements in favor of punishing the Chinese for their poor conduct on the international stage. However, one must be wary of any promises made by politicians. This is a lesson in history. Even President Obama has broken a few promises made during the presidential race (Guantanamo Bay, anyone?). Who knows, it is possible that Mr. Romney will follow through on his promises of punishing the PRC for their disregarding of their colleagues in the world stage. However, it is also a possibility that promises of economic development and favorable trade agreements with China may lure the Republican nominee away from his initial goals. Regardless of which party, instances like this have happened before, and quite frequently in politics.
To put simply, I believe that Governor Romney makes an appealing case against Beijing. If he were to follow through on these promises and not collapse under the many pressures that come with being the most powerful man in the world, then I am all for it. My position on President Obama is that he has proven himself through the various actions outlined above. Furthermore, he has shown much more teeth in dealing with the Chinese than many of the presidents before him. For this reason, and for this particular issue, it seems more likely that our current president, Mr. Barack Obama would handle China in a more effective manner.
Nonetheless, Mr. Romney has made an attractive case in the China issue. If he follows through on his plans, then America will benefit greatly from it. Can Mitt Romney take the presidency from Barack Obama? Besides China, the American economy is a big issue right now, and Governor Romney has made some strong statements about creating work for Americans. Will President Obama be able to counter Romney’s attacks on his business credentials? There is still a long time before election day this November, what do you think?