Getting touch on China only good for sound bites

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Getting tough on China may sound good to voters, but there’s a lot more to it than the presidential candidates revealed in their face off Oct. 16.

It’s politically popular, of course, to accuse China of stealing American jobs. Look at the shafts on your golf clubs or the labels on your clothing, and there’s a good chance you’ll find a “made in China” label.

Charles Hutzler and Joe Mcdonald, two Associated Press writers, point out in a recent article that “in the simplistic narrative of U.S. presidential politics, China is a Hollywood villain, a monetary cheat that is stealing American jobs. But the one-dimensional caricature offered up by President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney obscures the crucial reality of U.S.-China relations: For all the talk about getting tough on Beijing, the U.S. and China are deeply entwined, defying easy solutions to the friction and troubles that beset their relations. The two countries are the first and second largest economies in the world, doing nearly a half-trillion dollars in trade which in turn buoys the global economy. Their governments are in constant contact on North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs and Syria’s civil war and are trying to work out rules of the road for their huge militaries and such 21st century problems as cyber warfare.

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“Few relationships are as critical to the world today. Managing the competition for global influence between the world’s superpower and its still-rising rival so that it does not become outright confrontation will be a priority for whoever wins next month’s presidential election.”

The article goes on to point out that although both candidates sought to portray China as vacuuming up American jobs, “their arguments contained half-truths and flaws. Romney said excessive regulation and misguided policies during Obama’s first term drained away American jobs, turning China into ‘the largest manufacturer in the world.’ Obama said Romney, through his work for private equity and investment firm Bain Capital, bore responsibility by investing in companies that moved jobs to China.”

Left unsaid by both candidates, the article added: “If low-cost manufacturing jobs don’t go to China, they’ll go somewhere else.”