The China-Bashing Syndrome
IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a major American political party’s presidential nomination must be in want of a more assertive policy on China. Bill Clinton upbraided George Bush senior for “coddling dictators”; Mr Bush’s son went on to accuse Mr Clinton, when president, of much the same thing. Barack Obama, during his first presidential campaign, called the younger Mr Bush “a patsy” in his dealings with China. Now it is Mitt Romney’s turn: in February he described Mr Obama as a “near supplicant to Beijing”.
Mr Romney, as befits the author of a book called “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness”, says that if elected he would not hesitate to put China in its place. On his first day in office, no less, he has pledged to declare it a currency manipulator, a step that could lead to across-the-board tariff increases on Chinese imports. More broadly, he says he will force China to play by the rules of international trade and investment: no more theft of intellectual property, no more unfair subsidies for state-owned firms, no more predatory pricing. And economics is not his only concern: he promises to chastise China more loudly for its human-rights abuses and to bolster America’s armed forces to counteract China’s growing military clout.
As in most things, Mr Romney’s China-bashing seems studied and methodical. He would like rich countries to impose “intellectual-property sanctions” on China, to prevent it from acquiring the advanced technology behind such things as passenger jets until it stops pilfering foreign know-how. Under the heading “Confront China Directly”, his website pledges to end government procurement from China until China provides reciprocal access to American firms. Taiwan, he says, should be allowed to buy whatever weapons it wants. Meanwhile America’s navy, he calculates, needs to build an extra six ships a year to handle all the challenges it faces, including an uppity China.