Why Obama-Romney Anti-China Rhetoric Will End (After the Election)

Last Tuesday’s presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney contained some tough rhetoric on China regarding issues such as intellectual property and currency manipulation. However, in an interview with Asia Society, former U.S. Institute of Peace president Richard H. Solomon states that when the time comes to make actual policy decisions, politicians do not live up to their inflammatory statements.

In the video embedded above, Solomon reveals that it is typical for new presidents to intially highlight problems and see China as a threat, but “once the administration has responsibility, they learn pretty quickly that the issues that have to be worked on a practical level require cooperation.” The full transcript of the video is below. 

Well, it is in the character of our presidential debates, our political rhetoric, that differences get highlighted, put out in technicolor, and the China economic issue, in a situation where our leaders, whether they're in power or competing for it, are concerned about our own job situation. And again, China, second largest economy in the world, a manufacturing center of the world, plays a major role in our own economic interest. And concern about lack of a level playing field, the issue of theft of intellectual property, currency manipulation, and these are all serious issues that do affect our economy and our own job situation and so those issues are being highlighted, as tends to be the case in these presidential campaigns.

Yet, as one of my colleagues, a former ambassador to China, has stressed, over and again over the past six, seven, eight administrations, the incoming crowd, maybe in the election period, highlights the problems and sees China even as a threat, yet once the administration has responsibility, they learn pretty quickly that the issues that have to be worked at a practical level require cooperation. And so over again the pattern has been, criticism and some tensions at the outset, but ultimately, a collaborative relationship dealing with both the problems and opportunities for cooperation evolves over the lifespan of a given administration and I would not be surprised if that's the same pattern we're going to see in the coming four years.

About the Author

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Liz Flora is a contributor to Asia Blog. She has a master's degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University.