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Barack Obama's re-election reverberates far beyond US borders — so much so that citizens of some distant nations, like Pakistan and Turkey, say they too should have been able to vote. To give them a voice, GlobalPost interviewed people around the world for their views on the United States and who they hoped would win the election.
Both candidates have had harsh words for China, and their tough talk carries huge risks.
Obama: China’s trade subsidies are “not right, it’s against the rules and we will not let it stand”
The above quote is from a recent Obama stump speech in which he rolled out a new complaint against China at the World Trade Organization. Months in the making, the filing argues that China funneled $1 billion in subsidies to its carmakers to ramp up exports.
Coming on the back of the president’s decision to bar a Chinese-owned company from building a wind-farm next to a US naval base, many pundits connected the dots to see this as Obama “competing” with Romney “over which one will be tougher on the Asian giant.”
That seems to miss the forest for the trees. Since the economic crisis in 2008, it has become more and more apparent that China’s mercantilist approach to global trade — favoring its “national champions” with wide-ranging subsidies, forcing foreign companies to share technology with their Chinese rivals, exploiting the WTO’s slow-moving processes to flout the rules — needs to be addressed more forcefully.
“China’s unique brand of authoritarian capitalism … has created a mismatched interface between China and the established global systems for governing trade and investment,” writes James McGregor, a 20-year veteran of Chinese business and journalism, in his new book “No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers.”
Neither the WTO nor the array of bilateral dialogues and dispute resolution bodies has dealt with anything like this before. China’s challenge threatens to push the existing systems to a breaking point. But China is also the biggest beneficiary of current configurations.
Obama and Romney, while obviously engaging in political posturing, both seem to recognize this challenge at some level. To call their sparring mere “China bashing” misses this.
At the same time, all their tough talk on China carries huge risks, and could easily backfire if it escalates. Focusing so heavily on the negative in America’s massively important, complex relationship with China is not only a distortion, but a danger. Ultimately, whoever enters the White House in 2013 may have to clean up a mess of their own making with Beijing.
Verdict: Tougher talk than usual from Obama — but hardly just "China bashing."