Romney, Obama, and China bashing: Why?

An unlikely source for today’s news: Rupert Murdoch’s own Fox News, which ran an editorial questioning whether bashing China is necessarily a wise move for both American presidential candidates.

In the piece, titled “Obama, Romney talk tough on China — but could it hurt the US economy?”, Fox reporter Dan Springer ponders the effects of Sinophobia:

“There does appear to be at least one area of agreement between the two candidates. Each thinks the United States should get tougher on China. In fact, President Obama and Mitt Romney have been trying to out-tough each other when it comes to how they would deal with China over the next four years.

‘We have brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two,’ Obama said recently on the stump.

‘On day one, I’ll label China a currency manipulator and that will allow me to apply tariffs where they steal our intellectual property and kill jobs,’ Romney frequently tells cheering crowds.

But while China-bashing may help win some votes in key states that have lost manufacturing jobs — like the pivotal battleground of Ohio — the campaign rhetoric worries the rising number of Americans who owe their jobs to open trade with the fastest-growing economy in the world.

‘To have this rhetoric that’s really talking about “China is bad, we want to be punitive against China”, yes, I think it plays well on the campaign trail, but in the long term that could really hurt our economic relationship,’ said Eric Schinfeld, of the Washington Council on International Trade.

There is evidence it already has had a negative effect. A Pew study found views among Chinese citizens toward the United States are changing. In 2010, 68 percent of the people surveyed described the relationship with the U.S. as cooperative. This year that number is down to 39 percent. Meantime, the percentage of people calling it a hostile relationship has jumped from 8 to 26.”

Color us surprised that Fox made that point. But it isn’t the only news agency wondering why everyone in America is harshing out on China so bad.

In fact, Slate’s Matthew Yglesias said the same, when pondering why Romney would single out China as the world’s only currency manipulator:

“Since China’s really big, its foreign exchange interventions are a bigger deal that Malaysia’s or Thailand’s, but relative to the size of their economies, those countries are doing more manipulation than China.

Indeed even after excluding all deeply poor countries from the list (on the ground that they deserve leeway) and excluding Sovereign Wealth Funds from the analysis, Gagnon comes up with a list of twenty countries engaging in substantial China-style currency manipulation. It’s perhaps worth asking if Romney wants to tax them all. Israel? Switzerland? Taiwan?

For my part, I find the whole manipulation issue a bit puzzling. It’s truly a sad day in economic history when a great nation like the United States can’t think of a better way to debase its own currency than to threaten foreigners with excise taxes.”

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