China Not Happy with Romney's 'Blame-China' Views

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Let's dig in on one issue from the GOP that's causing a stir many thousands of miles from Tampa. Getting tough with China has almost been a mantra of Mitt Romney's campaign. He's pledged, if elected, to grant China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. He's also promised to curb China's rise as a regional superpower and he's hammered President Obama for declining to sell F16 fighter jets to Taiwan. Well, Beijing has had enough. Yesterday China official news agency, Xinhua, criticized Romney for what it calls a blame China game. The worlds China correspondent Mary Kay Magistad joins us now. Mary Kay, American presidential candidates usually beat up on China during campaigns but, what's actually different about what Mitt Romney is saying?

Mary Kay Magistad: I'm not sure that there is that much different about what Romney is saying. If you go back, say, 20 years to the Clinton campaign. Bill Clinton was saying that he was going to get tough on China. He also said that China had unfair trade practices, was manipulating its currency, that he was going to get tough. Well, he sent Warren Christopher in, not much happened and within a year or two of his presidency he recognized that its all much more complicated than the U.S. saying "Ë?Look, China, your going to get in line.' It's a complicated relationship. It's an important relationship. It's multifaceted and a lot of things need to be balanced. And president after president has recognized this after they've been in office for a while.

Werman: But now China has hit back verbally with the Xinhua news agency using the blame China game line. Is it unusual for China to react in such a way?

Magistad: It's actually not that unusual, in fact, what's interesting is that I think over time the Chinese leadership and the official Chinese media have become more sophisticated in how they look at the rhetoric that's thrown around during a U.S. presidential campaign. I think they used to take it very personally and be offended and affronted by it. Over the last few months they've basically sat back and watched. They've spoken up now related to Taiwan in particular. They've said that when it comes to being labeled a currency manipulator the Chinese find this a distortion of facts but as the Xinhua story said, when it comes to Taiwan, your treading on dangerous territory if your starting to say "Ë?Okay, we're going to give Taiwan all the military equipment it needs,' because this is one of China's core interests. That's not new. China has been saying this over and over again. They said it to president Obama when he did sell some military equipment to Taiwan just not everything they wanted.

Werman: How concerned is China, sincerely, if there were to be a president Romney? What would that actually mean to China?

Magistad: Well, this is an interesting question because, over time, the Chinese have actually tended to favor republican candidates. They think that the republican candidates are more free market; are less likely to speak up on behalf of U.S. labor. What they found with president Obama was that actually in the first year of his presidency he tried to be pretty cooperative. He tried to engage China on multiple fronts and, after finding that the Chinese were seeing that as a sign of weakness he actually firmed up, and has been respectful but firm in his approach to China. The conversations of different types have continued. The discussions that are part of a very complex U.S.-China relationship have continued but, I think the Chinese have gotten the message that they can't push president Obama around as much as they perhaps, initially, thought they might be able to. This is also part of a much bigger picture which is that over the last four to five years China has started to sort of feel that it is this ascendant power that the U.S. is on the decline and that, perhaps, China could speed up the process by just sort of kicking the U.S. aside. What they're finding now is their own economy slows and as the U.S. proves to be a little more resilient than they expected, particularly in it's presence in Asia, is "Ë?we need to manage this a little bit differently.' That's going to be the same whether it's President Obama staying in office or whether Mitt Romney becomes president. I think if Mitt Romney were to make good on his promise to label China a currency manipulator on day one when he's in office, if he did sell Taiwan more advance weapon systems, he would get immediate and considerable push back from China and it wouldn't necessarily be in the best interest of the United States.

Werman: The world's China correspondent, Mary Kay Magistad. Thank you very much.

Magistad: Thank you, Marco.