Mitt Romney fired a fresh jab at President Barack Obama Thursday over his China policy, in a new web video vowing to make China “play by the rules” of global trade on his first day in the White House.
The Republican presidential candidate sought to play on anti-China sentiment among voters who have seen US jobs migrate abroad, and on trade and currency policies engineered by Beijing which are seen as unfair.
“President Romney stands up to China on trade and demands they play by the rules,” said the narrator of the “Day One” video, over footage of what appears to be a cargo ship loading up with crates in a Chinese port.
The film, the second in a series, also says that within hours of taking office as president next January, Romney would repeal Obama’s “job killing” regulations and announce cuts to the US budget deficit.
Romney’s gambit was a new sign he may try to pressure Democrat Obama on China policy in crucial industrial swing states that are crucial battlegrounds in November’s election.
The Obama campaign quickly responded to the attack, with spokeswoman Lis Smith decrying “another Mitt Romney ad — and yet more empty promises.”
“We know Mitt Romney can’t be trusted to stand up to China because in 2010 he criticized President Obama for acting to protect the American tire industry, calling it ‘decidedly bad for the nation and our workers.’”
“President Obama has proposed a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion, taken unprecedented action to protect American products and workers from unfair Chinese trade practices.”
Obama, who must manage the highly sensitive US relationship with rising China while seeking to protect his political flank at home, has toughened his rhetoric towards Beijing in recent months.
In the presence of Chinese leaders, he has called on Beijing to play by the “rules of the road” in the global economy.
The administration has also launched investigations or sought to implement protective tariffs on wind towers, solar cells, a wide range of steel products, garlic, and other goods from China.
In an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal in February, Romney accused Obama of entering office “as a near supplicant to Beijing, almost begging it to continue buying American debt.”
“We should not fail to recognize that a China that is a prosperous tyranny will increasingly pose problems for us, its neighbors and the entire world,” Romney wrote.
Romney also criticized the administration’s over the case of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was eventually allowed to leave China to pursue studies in the United States after intense talks between US and Chinese officials.
He has pledged to brand China a currency manipulator on his first day in the White House and to reverse what he said was Washington’s current “trade surrender” to Beijing.
Beijing bashing is not unusual for major presidential candidates, especially in economic conditions like the current tough environment.
But candidates who become president typically moderate their rhetoric and fall into line with a four-decades-long geopolitical effort by US officials to downplay confrontation and manage China’s economic and diplomatic rise.
Some analysts believe that Romney’s heavy reliance for political fundraising from the corporate wing of the Republican Party — which has a vested interest in good trading ties with China — would also moderate his tone towards Beijing once in office.
[Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney, pictured at a school in Pennsylvania. AFP Photo/Mario Tama]