Romney’s China Position
Princeton Professor Aaron Friedberg, one of Mitt Romney’s principal advisers on China, has an op-ed claiming that President Obama’s China policy is a massive failure. Basically, his arguments are that a) Obama’s strategic pivot to Asia is seen as aggressive by China, but b) China still thinks the US is in decline and weak, because c) the US cannot compel China to do its bidding in North Korea and Iran, and d) China seems to insist, oddly enough, on having its own relationships with other countries. President Romney, on the other hand, will rectify these problems by balancing the budget and reducing the US national debt. He also will compel China to behave more in line with US interests. How? Friedberg doesn’t say, but I’m sure we’ll find out once Romney wins the election, since that seems to be how he reacts whenever asked for specifics.
About the only concrete policy proposal we’ve heard from Governor Romney himself is to label China a currency manipulator on his first day of office. In theory, this will open up the possibility that the US will penalize China for its malfeasance. In practice, this will accomplish nothing except to annoy China and elicit an outraged communique warning Washington not to meddle in Chinese affairs. The renminbi will continue to rise against the dollar, albeit slowly. China will continue to finance US debt. American consumers will continue to buy cheap Chinese exports. As Kurt Vonnegut might say, so it goes.
For all intents and purposes, US policy toward China will scarcely change no matter who wins the election. Friedberg no doubt knows this, but as Romney’s “China guy” he still has to pretend otherwise. In general, though, his op-ed refuses to consider that China might have different strategic interests to the US, or that an American presidential administration has the tools to change these interests even if he wanted to. This is a dangerous viewpoint in general, and one that is unfortunately prevalent in US politics.