BEIJING — Mitt Romney’s tough talk on China is getting more pushback from authorities in Beijing.
On Thursday, the Republican presidential candidate released a new ad on manufacturing jobs contending that “for the first time, China is beating us” and that President Obama has “failed to stop China’s cheating.” Campaigning in Virginia, Romney added: “The president has had the chance year after year to label, to label China a currency manipulator, but he hasn’t done so and I will label China the currency manipulator they are on the first day.”
The official New China news agency responded Friday with an editorial calling Romney’s remarks “as false as they are foolish” and saying that it is “ironic that a considerable portion of this China-battering politician’s wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he entered politics.”
The editorial warned that if Romney’s “mud-slinging tactics were to become U.S. government policies, a trade war would be very likely to break out between the world’s top two economies, which would be catastrophic enough to both sides and the already groaning global economy.”
China’s currency, the renminbi, has appreciated about 30 percent against the dollar in the last seven years, but the government still plays a strong role in determining its valuation. The Congressional Research Service says the renminbi remains too cheap relative to the dollar, making Chinese goods inexpensive for U.S. consumers but making American goods relatively pricey for Chinese.
Some members of Congress have urged the Treasury Department to label China a “currency manipulator” in its semi-annual reports on international economic and exchange rate policies. But the Obama administration — like the George W. Bush administration before it — has refused, with officials indicating that doing so would just anger China without producing any tangible results.
Still, U.S. officials have repeatedly urged China to let market forces play a bigger role in determining the value of the currency versus the dollar.
“The process of correcting the misalignment of the exchange rate remains incomplete,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a speech last spring, adding that the renminbi “needs to appreciate further against the dollar and the other major currencies.”
The New China news agency editorial Friday scolded the U.S. for its “lousy” economic recovery and “excruciatingly high jobless rate” and warned that “all U.S. politicians should be mindful that the task of maintaining a strong trade relationship is crucial not only to China, but also to the United States as well, especially in this time of global economic turbulence and uncertainty.”
It was the second time in about two weeks that China’s state-run press has fired back at the Romney campaign.
During the Republican National Convention in Florida, the China Daily called Mr. Romney’s policies “an outdated manifestation of a Cold War mentality” that “endorses the ‘China threat’ theory and focuses on containing China’s rise.”
On Romney’s campaign website, the candidate lays out his position on issues in Asia and says the U.S. should “strengthen alliances and relations with strategic partners like India and build stronger ties to influential countries like Indonesia.”
The document states that “our objective is not to build an anti-China coalition. Rather it is to strengthen cooperation among countries with which we share a concern about China’s growing power and increasing assertiveness. … It is yet another way of closing off China’s option of expanding its influence through coercion.”
The Republican Party platform singled out China as “the chief offender” in the theft of American patents, brands, technology and intellectual property. China, the GOP stated, “has built up its economy in part by piggybacking onto Western technological advances, manipulates its currency to the disadvantage of American exporters, excludes American products from government purchases, subsidizes Chinese companies to give them a commercial advantage, and invents regulations and standards designed to keep out foreign competition. The current Administration’s way of dealing with all these violations of world trade standards has been a virtual surrender.”
The China Daily commentary warned that Romney was “even more pugnacious” than Obama and concluded by saying:
“Making sensible policy recommendations about what are widely recognized as the most important bilateral ties in the world demands political vision as well as a profound knowledge of full width and breadth of Sino-U.S. relations. Romney apparently lacks both.”