After an impossibly close Iowa caucus last night, with Romney coming a mere 8 votes ahead of Santorum, and Congressman Paul a mere 3.1 percent behind the pair, we must begin to consider where the presidential hopefuls stand in relation to the other world’s superpower, China.
It has been a rocky road the last few decades, but the two countries’ economies have become so interwoven that officials are forced into a reluctant partnership. So what is the prognosis for 2012? And after the election, what would a Romney or a Paul presidency look like in relation to China? Will it be an era of tension, or an era of smooth governance?
As Liu Tian and Wei Jianhua point out in their recent article in English News: “The answer is not clear, partly because of the contradicting messages from Washington in the past year.”
Though the Obama administration has stressed maintaining civility and strengthening ties with the country as they become increasingly democratic and capitalistic, China has not been thrilled with some of the President’s actions in 2011.
Tian and Jianhua provide the Chinese perspective: “President Barack Obama said his country would conduct sound cooperation with China in the beginning… but later met with the Dalai Lama (exiled leader of Tibet, a province of the Himalayas), approved arms sales to Taiwan and interfered in the South China Sea issue.”
But things might be changing as we approach the year-end’s presidential election. As is tradition in every Republican presidential campaign since World War II, candidates have been spouting hard-line rhetoric against China. For example, “Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor has been drumming up China as a threat in economic, military and cultural fields.” This scare tactic has been one of the GOP’s go-to talking points for years, playing on the fear of Americans, and getting them into the voting booths.
As Tian and Jianhua report: “Trade is another hot issue as it is often attached to the exchange rate. Some U.S. politicians assume that China artificially devalues its currency to gain advantage for its exports and that the exchange rate is the root cause of trade imbalances between the two countries.” Despite such claims from American politicians, ties are so close between the two countries that it is safe to assume — whatever the rhetoric candidates use during election year — once elected, they will cool down and play ball with our favorite exporter. And how could they not, as “Two-way trade increased 17 percent year-on-year to 363 billion U.S. dollars in the first 10 months of 2011.”
Ron Paul, the libertarian candidate, maintains a more cool-headed position on China. Despite reservations about many of the aspects of Nixon’s presidency, Congressman Paul applauds him for opening the door to China. Paul supposes (probably to the great anger of fellow candidates) that, “in some ways, they embarrass us, because they’re more Capitalistic than we are. It’s easier for our businesses to go to China than it is to stay here. That aggravates me. But I blame ourselves for that.”
Another source of tension for US-China relations is the US occupation of Asia. Though the US makes no claim of such activity, some Chinese officials suggest that they do so to maintain a power balance in the area. This sounds like paranoid banter, as the US has more direct issues to deal with in the Middle East. Tian and Jianhua point out: “Facts in recent years have shown that the complicated ties between the two major countries are always mixed with consensus and disputes, competition and cooperation.”
So right now, it’s most important to maintain ties. To do so would be of benefit to both countries. And regardless of the results of this years’ election, the President will certainly fall into place and allow to existing communication mechanisms to continue to thrive.