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US election hopefuls turn to anti-China rhetoric

Updated: 2012-07-27 08:08
By Tan Yingzi and Zhao Shengnan ( China Daily)

Presidential hopefuls in the United States are blaming China's economic policies for the US recession in a fit of "China-bashing" that analysts say may harm bilateral ties.

The latest incident occurred on Wednesday when a top US Treasury official said Washington will continue to press Beijing on currency exchange, intellectual property rights and other economic policies.

Lael Brainard, treasury permanent undersecretary for international affairs, said China needs to do more to work toward a market economy, adding that the US will defend its interests using "all available mechanisms effectively and aggressively".

US election hopefuls turn to anti-China rhetoric

Appreciation in the yuan's value and a decline in China's current account surplus are "progress that is worth acknowledging", but Beijing must act faster on reforms, Brainard said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank.

The remarks from one of US President Barack Obama's officials came a week after the campaign of Republican challenger Mitt Romney blasted the Democrat for being "soft" on China.

Romney aide Lanhee Chee said Obama had "lost all credibility on China and trade" for, among other things, failing to label Beijing as a currency manipulator despite a 2008 campaign pledge to do so.

The Treasury Department said China has made continuing efforts toward economic reform. The department said yuan has appreciated 40 percent against the dollar, after adjusting for inflation, since China initiated currency reforms in 2005. US exports to China have increased by over 50 percent since 2009, while Chinese investment in the US has created jobs there.

A senior Chinese official who specializes in IPR business said on Tuesday that foreign providers received equal treatment when operating in China, including government's purchases of licensed software. Non-Chinese software companies are encouraged to sell their products in China and are protected by laws.

The Economist said in its July 14 issue that US Democrats and Republicans alike have engaged in "China-bashing" by casting China as an economic threat.

Such remarks reinforce "the feeling among China's leaders that the US is out to thwart their country's 'peaceful rise'". "The fact that both parties are happy to portray China as the bogeyman of globalization creates an impression of uniform hostility. It also disenfranchises those American voters who would like to express a more optimistic view of the consequences of commerce."

Both US presidential candidates are playing the "China card" to win favor with voters, said Wang Zihong, an expert in American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"But US policies toward China must first reflect the interests of US citizens, instead of solely being decided by the president's stance during the election campaign," he said.

In an opinion piece published in the news journal Project Syndicate last week, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser warned the Obama administration against provocative policies toward China.

"These are dangerous days, not only economically, but also strategically. We really do need to ask whether Obama is trying to play a China card to shift the electoral scales in his favor. If that is his intention, it is a move fraught with great danger," he wrote.

Dan Steinbock, research director of International Business at the India, China and America Institute, has previously been quoted as saying that China is presented primarily as the cause of US economic stagnation, and the policy toward China is consistently framed in negative terms.

Steinbock said the next President will have to make some painful decisions, including how to deal with excessive domestic debt, lingering unemployment and stagnating growth.

The US consensus supporting close economic ties with China is fraying after four decades, but the country needs to welcome Chinese investment and to reform "outdated" export controls that limit technology exports, former US treasury secretary Henry Paulson said on July 17.

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