As an American living abroad, it has been quite pleasant being isolated from so much of the empty noise that emanates from my home country’s news media during election years. I was grateful for the filter of distance in 2004, as well as last year, and am even more so now that it seems there are no more “off years” in American political campaigning. Still, when the issue of China is broached I can’t help my ears from pricking up.
Continuing with the “boycott the Olympics” meme that we haven’t been able to quite shake in this space lately, shrewd PR observer and friend of CER Imagethief has a good post up today on Democratic presidential candidates’ comments on Sudan and the Beijing Games during the recent debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Several comments were of the “get tough on China” variety (though only John Edwards and Bill Richardson advocated an actual boycott), and Imagethief points out just how empty the rhetoric is since, after all, the election won’t even be held until after the Olympics.
If you’re interested in the candidates’ official stances on China, look no further than the website of the Council on Foreign Relations (thanks to Andy Scott on the China Briefing blog), which has information on the positions of nearly all the candidates from the two major parties towards China, though those of no-hopes Joe Cox and John Gilmore are “unknown” (as is just about everything else about them). A few sample entries:
Sen. Clinton (D-NY), unlike many of her fellow candidates, has chosen to focus a significant portion of her campaign rhetoric on China’s economic impact on the United States, which she says is causing “a slow erosion of our own economic sovereignty.”
In February 2007, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 416 points as a result of a “scare in the Chinese stock market,” Clinton wrote a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urging them to take action to reduce Chinese-owned debts.
She is also concerned about China’s economic practices, including the revaluation of the yuan, saying in a CNBC interview that she wants “the countries with whom we do business to have protections for intellectual property; I want them to have a rule of law that is enforceable; I want them to not manipulate their currency.”
Clinton has been critical of China ’s human rights record as well.
“There is no more important relationship that America has than our relationship with China,” Edwards said in a 2006 speech before the Asia Society in New York after returning from a trip to China. Edwards appears to believe that the United States must accept that China is becoming a major world power, and that its relationship with the United States does not necessarily have to be tense. In Edwards’ analysis, Chinese leaders “want the world to be a stable, relatively tranquil place” so that they can focus on further expanding their economy.
As a senator in 2000, Edwards voted for the U.S.-China Trade Relations Act, which normalized trade relations with China.
Sen. Obama (D-IL) has expressed interest in cooperation with China, although he sees the country as a major competitor to the United States. At the April 2007 debate among Democratic candidates, Obama said China is “neither our enemy nor our friend. They’re competitors. But we have to make sure that we have enough military-to-military contact and forge enough of a relationship with them that we can stabilize the region.”
In an April 2007 speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Obama said that if elected president, he would “forge a more effective regional framework in Asia,” building on “our strong bilateral relations and informal arrangements like the Six-Party Talks” on North Korea.
Obama has noted the problems with China’s revaluation of the yuan. He has said that although the United States should maintain a cooperative relationship with China, it should “never hesitate to be clear and consistent with China where we disagree—whether on protection of intellectual property rights, the manipulation of its currency, human rights, or the right stance on Sudan and Iran.”
Sen. McCain (R-AZ) has supported a U.S. policy that will “hedge” against China’s growing global influence. “That doesn’t imply an effort to oppose China’s emergence as an influential power, but it does mean maintaining our military presence in East Asia, strengthening our alliance with Japan and our relations with other Asian countries, and working through groups like the APEC forum to further American interests and values,” McCain said in a 2005 speech to the Committee of 100, a nonpartisan organization of Chinese Americans.
In 2000, McCain voted for the U.S.-China Trade Relations Act.
Rep. Paul (R-TX) has called China “one of the most brutal, anti-American regimes in the world.” Still, Paul was one of only five representatives to vote against the Political Freedom in China Act of 1997.
Paul was also the only member of the House to vote against a 2006 resolution condemning religious persecution in China.
Paul voted against the U.S.-China Trade Relations Act of 2000, as well as the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act in 2001.
Romney says that the United States must “reach out to China and to chart out a course that is consistent with a free economy and a free society,” according to National Review. Romney, who traveled to China at the end of 2006, said in a February 2007 speech that the U.S. must ensure that Chinese markets are open to U.S. goods, and that the Chinese “enforce our intellectual property rights as well as they enforce their own.”