Rhetoric over the U.S. relationship with China has increased in recent weeks, with the political campaigns, administration and even world leaders weighing in on the proper way to deal with the Asian giant.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney began criticizing President Barack Obama's China policy back in May, but doubled down on his attacks last week in the wake of anti-American protests near U.S. consulates and embassies worldwide.
Calling into question the efficacy not only of the Obama administration's Middle East policy, but also its Asia policy, Romney said he would hold China accountable for its irresponsible fiscal and human rights policies.
"President Obama has spent 43 months failing to confront China's unfair trade practices. Campaign-season trade cases may sound good on the stump, but it is too little, too late for American businesses and middle-class families," Romney said in an email message to supporters Monday.
"I will not wait until the last months of my presidency to stand up to China...I will pursue a comprehensive strategy to confront China's unfair trade practices and ensure a level playing field where our businesses can compete and win," Romney added.
Earlier this month, Romney also criticized the president for defense cuts he said will "cede our status as a global power." The Obama administration fought back, saying Romney outsourced American jobs to countries like China in his days at Bain Capital.
This week, the U.S. also announced it would bring a dispute over China's auto and auto parts "export base" subsidy program to the World Trade Organization for deliberation. The White House said this was in the works for months and did not have to do with earlier criticisms from the Romney camp.
"These are decisions that are made that have been months in the making," White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. "The President isn't focused on the politics; the President is focused on his responsibility to advocate for American workers."
But regardless of the timing of the announcement, the Obama re-election campaign, Obama for America, also released a political ad Tuesday highlighting the decision and citing Romney's own 2010 book "No Apologies" as proof of the two camps' policy differences.
"President Obama's action to defend American tire companies from foreign competition may make good politics by repaying unions for their support of his campaign, but it is decidedly bad for the nation and our workers," the 2010 full quote reads. "Protectionism stifles productivity."
Vice President Joe Biden also joined in on the attack, citing a recent article from Chinese state-run news site Xinhua that criticized Romney for "China-battering" when a large amount of Romney's "own wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he entered politics."
The Romney campaign then hit back at Biden, saying the use of a quote from Xinhua was akin to "siding" with China.
However, when speaking more broadly on U.S.-China relations, the Obama administration has also been keen to insist its "pivot to Asia" policy has nothing to do with hedging the Asian giant.
Just last month in a trip through Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made this point quite clear in a speech commemorating U.S. peace and security partnerships in the Pacific.
"The United States welcomes cooperation with a number of partners, including Japan, the European Union, China, and others," she said during a stop in the Cook Islands.
"I know there are those who see America's renewed engagements over the last three and a half years in the Pacific perhaps as a hedge against particular countries. But the fact is...the Pacific is big enough for all of us," Clinton added.
World leaders, especially those in the Asia-Pacific region, while favoring the U.S.'s increased role in the area, have also urged dialogue and discouraged tension.
Speaking in her first U.S. visit since her release from house arrest, Burmese democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday, "it would be to our advantage for the United States and China to establish friendly relations....this is what I look forward to."
But the sheer fact remains that the American public is wary about establishing "friendly relations" with the Communist nation. In a Pew Research Center Poll released Tuesday, only 26 percent of Americans said the U.S. could trust China a great deal or a fair amount.
Slightly more (45 versus 39 percent) also said Obama is not being tough enough with China than say his policy is about right. This is thrown into starker relief when we see the partisan divide on China policy.
Republicans are far more worried about China's economic and defense rise than Democrats, the poll showed. Around 60 percent of Republicans think this rise poses a direct threat to the U.S. while only 48 percent of Democrats agree.
This rhetoric - and the partisan divide on China policy itself - will no doubt increase as the nation moves closer to the presidential debate on foreign policy in October and the general election in November.
by RTT Staff Writer
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