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“They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods,” he said.

The reference to hacking was the only mention of the security threat posed by China, which U.S. officials have said is among the most aggressive nations engaged in military-related cyberattacks.

The president then countered Mr. Romney by saying that his administration had doubled exports to China.

As for U.S. military efforts to counter China’s growing assertiveness in Asia, Mr. Obama noted his administration’s “pivot” to Asia that is designed to maintain stability in the region.

“And we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power, that we are going to have a presence there,” Mr. Obama said.

“We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through, that commerce continues.

“And we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards,” the president said. “That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ll continue to show.”

One conservative U.S. official said he is impressed with the Obama administration’s tougher security-related policies toward China, which he said are more focused than the conciliatory trade- and business-oriented policies of the George W. Bush administration.

The Romney campaign website focused more on the threat from China than Mr. Romney did during the debate. It states there is a danger of a future conflict with “authoritarian China” and calls for “policies designed to encourage Beijing to embark on a course that makes conflict less likely.”

China must be discouraged from attempting to intimidate or dominate neighboring states,” the campaign policy statement says.

“If the present Chinese regime is permitted to establish itself as the preponderant power in the Western Pacific, it could close off large parts of the region to cooperative relations with the United States and the West and dim hope that economic opportunity and democratic freedom will continue to flourish across East Asia.”

A Romney presidency will “implement a strategy that makes the path of regional hegemony for China far more costly than the alternative path of becoming a responsible partner in the international system.”

Mr. Romney also promises to counter China’s accelerating military buildup with appropriate U.S. military forces “to discourage any aggressive or coercive behavior by China against its neighbors.”

“Maintaining a strong military presence in the Pacific is not an invitation to conflict,” the campaign statement adds. “Quite the contrary; it is a guarantor of a region where trade routes are open and East Asia’s community of nations remains secure and prosperous.”

A Romney administration plans to expand the U.S. naval presence in the Western Pacific and assist American partners in the region, including sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan.

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