Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why does China-bashing attract American voters? (Or does it?)

Posted by Professor Wenfang Tang

The effort to demonize China:
There is a lot of talk about the polarization of political parties in the U.S. these days. But party candidates from the left or the right, liberal or conservative, seem to unite on one issue – bashing China. 


In this game, party candidates compete to paint the darker picture of China in order to get more votes.

For their part, voters are disillusioned by major shocks such as losing their jobs or their homes, or by the simple fact that they can no longer spend money they don’t have by borrowing.  

More importantly, voters need to find someone, a target, against whom to vent. No candidate wants to tell them that we as a country need to cut costs. Neither do they want to tell voters that they should pay more taxes.  

So let’s blame all the problems on China. After all, China steals our jobs by producing cheaper products with unfair government subsidies. It pirates our technology so that our companies lose billions. It manipulates the value of its currency so that they can sell us more than they buy from us. It violates human rights by putting dissidents in jail. 

The presidential candidates from both parties are calling China cheaters and liars. The Obama Administration has filed several trade complaints against China, just in time for the end run toward re-election. For his part, Mitt Romney has promised that if he is elected, the first thing he will do is to declare China a “currency manipulator”, whatever that means. 

I called a friend in China and told her about the Romney flier. 

I received a Romney flier in the mail which claims that the 8.3 percent of jobs that were lost in America went to China.

I called a friend in China and told her about the Romney flier. She laughed sarcastically and told me that she was just forced to retire at 55 so that she can vacate her position for young people waiting in line, and that her son has been looking for a job for the past year since he graduated from college.

I am not an expert on currency manipulation. As a consumer, I certainly enjoy the low prices of Chinese goods in American stores, which are sometimes even cheaper here than in China. That’s despite the fact that the average American income is many times higher than in China. 

The China bashers say that we borrow money from China and then spend it there. When I look at the some 1,800 Chinese students on campus and the several hundred million dollars they bring from home each year, I cannot help but think that China is subsidizing the U.S. government and boosting local American economies, at least in the college towns that increasingly attract them. 

I want to vote for someone who can figure out how to get along with China. 

Bashing China can only postpone solving the problems in the U.S., such as overspending, special interest domination, and the disproportionate privileges that the rich enjoy. 

The Chinese share the same need for dignity and pride as do Americans, and in fact, as any human beings. Calling the Chinese cheaters and liars only creates more anti-U.S. sentiment, of which we already have plenty to deal with in the world.  

The UCLA political scientist John Zaller, during his recent visit to the University of Iowa, said that political scientists should try to figure out how people can get along, not how to compete with each other. 

China is the second largest economy in the world and will probably surpass the U.S. and become the largest economy in the next decade. 

I want to vote for someone who wants to get along with China, and who can focus on solving the domestic problems here at home.  

More importantly, I want to vote for someone who can look beyond the short-term electoral game and work on America’s long-term national and international interests, which are significantly entwined with China and depend to a large extent on how our two countries will get along.

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