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Forget 999 and Herman Cain: Check out 9.1

China and the U.S. head in opposite directions.
China yuan dollar 2011 04 27Enlarge
Dollars and yuan notes. (Stringer/Getty Images)

Herman Cain's 999 tax reform plan is garnering tons of headlines these days. 

But the most interesting number in economic circles today is 9.1.

In what the Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics blog calls a "cosmic convergence," Beijing announced today that China's gross domestic product grew at a rate of 9.1 percent in the third quarter, the slowest pace in two years.

The U.S. unemployment rate, of course, is mired at the same 9.1 percent figure. 

Coincidence?

Whatever forces are at work in both economies — both positive and negative — the 9.1 percent convergence is sure to give China critics in the U.S. more ammunition.

The latest data comes at a difficult time for the two trading and economic partners, as some U.S. lawmakers look to punish China for its currency and trade policies.

And — as if on cue — a senior Republican today announced that the House of Representatives will hold a hearing on Chinese trade practices, Reuters reports.

"China's distorting trade policies are deeply troubling and cannot be allowed to stand," House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in a statement announcing the October 25 hearing.

Last week, the Senate approved a bill to "pressure China to raise the value of its yuan against the dollar by allowing U.S. companies on a case-by-case basis to seek countervailing duties on goods from countries with an undervalued currency," Reuters says.

That Senate move, naturally, irked many in Beijing. 

Here's how GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Kathleen McLaughlin characterized the Chinese reaction last week:

Chinese officials have warned that the bill, which appears unlikely to make it through the House of Representatives, would cost American jobs and spark a trade war between the two countries. American lawmakers, tired of the slow pace of China’s currency liberation, are seeking a change in the system that many believe gives China a trade advantage by keeping its yuan pegged below its true value.

“It is a serious breach of WTO rules, which cannot solve the U.S.’s own economic and employment issues, and will ... seriously interfere with Sino-U.S. economic and trade relations,” China Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

So what does Herman Cain think about all of this? 

Perhaps the U.S.-China economic issue will join his 999 plan as a topic during tonight's Republican Presidential debate in Nevada.

No doubt the number 9.1 will make an appearance. 

Until then, you'll have to content yourself with this helpful GlobalPost story on Cain's top 5 foreign policy pronouncements.

For more from Thomas Mucha on Twitter: 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/macro/999-herman-cain-us-economy-china