OBAMA, ROM­NEY ON CHINA

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The pres­i­den­tial de­bate on for­eign pol­icy has sharp­ened at­ten­tion on the can­di­dates’ views on China and whether its largescale 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.

“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.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion de­clined to sell the is­land na­tion ad­vanced F-16 jet fight­ers amid fears of up­set­ting mil­i­tary ties with Bei­jing, which claims Tai­wan as part of China.

Mr. Rom­ney also would con­front China on its hu­man rights abuses, some­thing the cam­paign pol­icy state­ment as­serts the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has failed to do.

“If the United States fails to sup­port dis­si­dents out of fear of of­fend­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, we will merely em­bolden China’s lead­ers,” the Rom­ney cam­paign said. Com­put­ing Cen­ter, is the Chi­nese equiv­a­lent of the Pen­tagon’s new U.S. Cy­ber Com­mand.

The re­port con­cludes: “Coun­ter­ing a co­or­di­nated cy­ber-re­con­nais­sance cam­paign re­quires re­duc­ing the value of in­for­ma­tion through thought­ful de­cep­tion, en­hanced coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence, greater co­op­er­a­tion with in­ter­na­tional part­ners such as Tai­wan, and im­pos­ing costs through ef­fec­tive de­ter­rence.”

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