WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s open season on China in the Republican race for the presidential nomination, and Mitt Romney is leading the charge. Newt Gingrich and some other candidates are on his heels, painting China as the bogeyman responsible for America’s economic ills.
Former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is the lone holdout, warning against actions that might prompt a trade war.
In a race focused primarily on jobs, taxes and debt, China is emerging as an increasingly prominent foreign policy topic — largely because it is by extension an issue of economics. The debate centers on legitimate gripes over the Asian power’s currency value, huge U.S. debt holdings and pirating of American technology. But those issues are often being melded into an all-encompassing populist argument that China is stealing jobs from the United States.
“Day one, I will issue an executive order identifying China as a currency manipulator,” Romney said during a debate this week, outlining his presidential vision. “People who’ve looked at this in the past have been played like a fiddle by the Chinese. And the Chinese are smiling all the way to the bank, taking our currency and taking our jobs and taking a lot of our future. And I’m not willing to let that happen.”
The economics aren’t as simple as good and evil in a relationship between the world’s largest exporter and importer who between them traded goods worth more than $450 billion last year. Yet the sharp tone has been an effective campaign tool with Americans increasingly perturbed by China’s rapidly expanding manufacturing production and pursuit of the U.S. position as the world’s biggest economy.