The party’s 2008 platform, by contrast, referred to the need for religious freedom but did not accuse the communist authorities of “persecution”; referred to the one-child policy but without labeling it “brutal” and with no reference to forced abortion; and spoke of the need to “adopt a flexible monetary exchange rate” but without using the term “manipulation.”
The tougher approach mirrors GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s rhetoric on China during the campaign. The foreign policy section of his campaign website speaks about developing a “Reagan Economic Zone” based on free trade principles that will likely exclude China, given its approach to trade, but will also provide Beijing with “significant incentives to end its abusive commercial practices.”
Romney has pledged to sign an executive order on his first day in office labeling China a currency manipulator, and has criticized President Obama for not having done so.
That criticism is echoed in the party platform, which says the Obama administration’s way of dealing with trade standard violations by China “has been a virtual surrender.”
“Republicans understand that you can succeed in a negotiation only if you are willing to walk away from it,” the document states. “Thus, a Republican President will insist on full parity in trade with China and stand ready to impose countervailing duties if China fails to amend its currency policies.”
The platform calls China the “chief offender” in the area of intellectual property theft, and says both that and the currency manipulation issue “call for a firm response from a new Republican Administration.”
Critics accuse China of deliberately keeping its currency, the yuan, undervalued against the dollar, thus making its exports cheaper and American exports to China more expensive. Beijing calls the U.S. concerns “unfounded.”
On human rights, too, Romney’s campaign has been critical of China – and of the administration’s approach.
“A nation that represses its own people cannot be a trusted partner in an international system based on economic and political freedom,” the campaign site says. “If the United States fails to support dissidents out of fear of offending the Chinese government, we will merely embolden China’s leaders.”
It goes on to criticize Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for saying during a 2009 visit to China that differences over human rights could not be allowed to interfere with priorities like “the global economic crisis [and] the global climate change crisis.”
The GOP platform tackles Chinese human rights violations in a hard-hitting paragraph that also touches on military and regional policy:
“The Chinese government has engaged in a number of activities that we condemn: China’s pursuit of advanced military capabilities without any apparent need; suppression of human rights in Tibet, Xinjiang, and other areas; religious persecution; a barbaric one-child policy involving forced abortion; the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong; and its destabilizing claims in the South China Sea.”
The platform’s section on China is not entirely condemnatory. It echoes a sentiment from the party’s 2008 platform stating, “We will welcome the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous China, and we will welcome even more the development of a democratic China.”
“The exposure of the Chinese people to our way of life can be the greatest force for change in their country,” the 2012 document continues. “We should make it easier for the people of China to experience our vibrant democracy and to see for themselves how freedom works. We welcome the increase in trade and education alliances with the U.S. and the opening of Chinese markets to American companies.”
The Democratic platform in 2008 also dedicated a paragraph to Chinese policies: “It’s time to engage China on common interests like climate change, trade, and energy, even as we continue to encourage its shift to a more open society and a market-based economy, and promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, uncensored use of the internet, and Chinese workers’ right to freedom of association, as well as the rights of Tibetans.”
The 2008 Democratic platform also cited “currency manipulation” as one of several difficulties faced by U.S. businesses and farmers, but did not directly link it to China. The Democratic platform for 2012 has yet to be released.
‘Poison the friendly atmosphere’
In an editorial published Monday, the state-run China Daily railed at Romney’s approach towards China as stated on his campaign website, calling it “an outdated manifestation of a Cold War mentality.”
While conceding that “it has become usual for U.S. politicians to play the China card in an election year,” it said “Romney’s stance on China is still worrying, as it could poison the friendly atmosphere necessary to develop Sino-U.S. relations.”
The editorial took issue particularly with what it called “Romney’s suggestion that the U.S. step up arms sales to Taiwan,” saying that the stance “lays bare his ignorance of the fundamentals of Sino-U.S. ties, as this is the most sensitive issue between the two countries.”
In fact, the campaign website’s reference to Taiwan states only, “We should be coordinating with Taiwan to determine its military needs and supplying them with adequate aircraft and other military platforms.”
Under the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington is obliged to sell Taipei the weapons necessary for it to defend itself. In 2010 the Obama administration, following in its predecessors’ footsteps, offered Taiwan a $6.4 billion package including Black Hawk helicopters, missile systems and mine hunting vessels.
What the China Daily editorial apparently picked up on in the Romney program were the words “adequate aircraft.” A glaring omission in Obama’s 2010 offer was the absence of scores of F-16 fighter jets Taiwan has been asking for since 2006.
Rather than provide the new F-16s as requested, the administration last September announced an offer to help Taiwan retrofit its existing, older fighter fleet.
At the time Romney slammed the decision, accusing Obama of having “caved into the unreasonable demands of China at the cost of well-paying American jobs.”
The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council has stated that the sale of the 66 F-16 C/Ds Taiwan wants “would help secure over 23,000 American jobs.”
Clinton is due to visit China on September 4 and 5, on what will be her sixth visit to the country as secretary of state.