WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidential candidates sparred over China during a debate on foreign policy Monday but as usual the focus was less on the Asian giant's rise as a world power than its impact on the American economy.
President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney both said they want America to have a positive relationship with China, but Beijing must play by international trade rules.
China played a relatively minor part in the debate — the last topic raised by the moderator in the 90-minute proceedings that were dominated by the security situation in the Middle East.
Romney repeated his threat to designate China a currency manipulator on his first day in office for allegedly undervaluing the yuan to help its exporters, which he said would allow the U.S. to apply punitive tariffs. He also accused the Chinese of stealing U.S. intellectual property and engaging in computer hacking.
"I want a great relationship with China," Romney said. "China can be our partner. But that does not mean they can just roll all over us and take our jobs on an unfair basis."
Obama described China as both an adversary and a potential international partner. He defended his record in addressing China's trade violations, saying his administration had brought more cases than his predecessor, George W. Bush, did in two terms.
The U.S. is running a record trade deficit with China — it reached $295.5 billion in 2011 — and Romney pointed out it has widened year-by-year.
Obama said that in order to build businesses to compete with China in the long-term, the U.S. needed to "take care of business at home" by supporting education and research.