Inside the Ring: Obama, Romney on China

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Last week’s presidential debate on foreign policy has sharpened attention on the candidates’ views on China and whether its large-scale military buildup is a threat to U.S. security.

In response to a question during the Oct. 22 debate about the rise of China and future challenges for the United States, President Obama declined to name China as the greatest future threat.

“Well, I think it will continue to be terrorist networks,” Mr. Obama said.

The president said China is “both an adversary but also a potential partner” that must follow the rules.

“So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else,” he said, sticking to economics and avoiding direct mention of China’s military buildup.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney, in his response to the same question, also declined to name China as a major future threat. He instead asserted that the greatest national security facing the country is “a nuclear Iran.”

Mr. Romney then said he regards China as having “an interest that’s very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world.”

According to Mr. Romney, China doesn’t want war, chaos and fragmentation around the world because that would upset manufacturing and the 20 million people now moving from rural farms to cities in China who need jobs.

“So they want the economy to work and the world to be free and open,” Mr. Romney said. “We can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form.”

However, observers note that China has not sought to promote freedom in pursuing its version of socialism in Asia and the developing world, instead siding with dictatorships and communist regimes.

“We can work with them,” Mr. Romney asserted. “We can collaborate with them if they’re willing to be responsible. “

Mr. Romney then expressed worries about China’s view of America’s financial problems, including the fact that China holds $1 trillion in U.S. debt securities. He also criticized the Obama administration’s sharp cuts to the U.S. military as sending Beijing the wrong signal.

“They look at us and say, ‘Is it a good idea to be with America? How strong are we going to be? How strong is our economy?’” he said.

“They look at America’s commitments around the world and they see what’s happening and they say, ‘Well, OK, is America going to be strong?’ And the answer is, ‘Yes. If I’m president, America will be very strong.’”

Mr. Romney promised he would “on Day One” of his presidency declare China to be a currency manipulator and impose tariffs.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon ( He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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