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China: Common Ground in White House Race

09-16 17:48 Caijing Magazine

Policy statements from U.S. presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain reflect shared perspectives on China.

By staff reporter Li Xin

U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain expressed similar views about U.S. policy toward China in statements published by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham-China) in the October issue of its China Brief. Each candidate stressed the importance of bilateral economic relations and U.S.-China cooperation on geopolitical issues such as the Six Party Talks. They also underscored shared responsibilities of the two nations on climate change, and consider this effort an opportunity to build stronger ties.

Both asked for a more open Chinese market. McCain criticized protectionism and highlighted the realities of globalization, saying some job losses may be permanent. Obama punched at the Chinese currency exchange rate system as well as intellectual property rights protection.

Caijing was the first Chinese media outlet to receive a full transcript of the candidate statements from AmCham-China. Here are excerpts, beginning with Democratic candidate Obama and followed by Republican hopeful McCain.

U.S.-China Policy under an Obama Administration

As China's leaders acknowledge, China must make some basic adjustments if it is to continue sustained, shared economic growth. China must develop practices that are more environmentally sustainable and less energy intensive, that boost domestic consumption as an engine of growth, that enhance the social safety net, and that encourage indigenous technological innovation. Otherwise, the country's future performance may fall well short of its potential.

On Taiwan and North Korea
We need to address the principal causes of regional tension. As I made clear in my congratulatory letter to Ma Ying-jeou on his inauguration, we support steps to build trust across the Taiwan Strait and improvements in relations between Beijing and Taipei, now more possible with good will by both sides than at any time since the mid-1990s. Reduction of tensions between China and Japan is in the interests of those two countries, and of the United States. We seek the type of stability and well-being on the Korean peninsula that can only be brought about by the complete elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program and normalization of relations between North Korea and all the participants in the Six Party Talks. And finally, and critically, we need a strong foundation for a long-term, positive and constructive relationship with an emerging China.

I firmly believe that an active, sophisticated and nimble U.S. diplomatic, economic and security presence in the region is critical to achieving these and related goals. Our alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand are the foundation of the U.S. security presence in the region, and contribute greatly to regional stability, threatening no one.

On Bilateral Trade
I know that America and the world can benefit from trade with China, but only if China agrees to play by the rules and act as a positive force for balanced world growth. I want China's economy to continue to grow, its domestic demand to expand and its vitality to contribute to regional and global prosperity. But China's current growth is unbalanced, and in recent years domestic consumption has actually gone down as a percentage of GDP. To increase internal demand, Beijing will have to improve substantially its social safety net and upgrade its financial services sector to bring its consumption in line with international norms.

On Currency Exchange Rates
Central to any rebalancing of our economic relationship with China must be a change in its currency practices. Because it pegs its currency at an artificially low rate, China is running massive current account surpluses. This is not good for American firms and workers, not good for the world, and ultimately likely to produce inflation problems in China itself.

On IPR and Product Quality
As president, I will use all the diplomatic avenues available to seek a change in China's currency practices. I will also undertake more sustained and serious efforts to combat intellectual property piracy in China, and to address regulations that discriminate against foreign investments in major sectors and other unfair trading practices. And I will work with the Chinese government to establish a better system for both countries to monitor products produced for export, and act when dangerous products are identified.

As president, I will take a vigorous, pragmatic approach to addressing these issues, utilizing our domestic trade remedy laws as well as the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism wherever appropriate. High-level dialogue among economic leaders in both countries is also important to achieving real progress. My approach to our economic relationship is positive and forward-looking: to remove obstructions to gaining benefits of trade, and thus to enable faster, and healthier, growth in both economies.

On the Environment
The climate change challenge demands that the United States and China develop much higher levels of cooperation, without delay. We are currently the world's two largest consumers of oil and the two largest emitters of greenhouse gasses. As the world's richest developed economy and the largest and most dynamic developing country, our cooperation to reduce the threat of climate change can produce models, practices and technologies that will provide impetus to global efforts, including those to reach agreement on a post-Kyoto climate regime.

America and China have developed a mature, wide-ranging relationship over the past 30-plus years. Yet we still have to do serious work if we are to create the level of mutual trust necessary for long-term cooperation in a rapidly changing region. Each country has deep concerns about the long-term intentions of the other, and those concerns will not disappear of their own accord. Cooperation on the key, enduring global challenges, such as climate change, can deepen understanding and enhance confidence. We also need to deepen high-level dialogues on a sustained basis on economic, security and global political issues. Our militaries should increase not only the quantity of their contacts but the quality of their engagement.

On Global Politics
In the modern world, non-traditional security threats are looming increasingly large. These include the challenges of terrorism, proliferation, failed states, infectious diseases, humanitarian disasters and piracy on the high seas. The United States and China have developed some cooperation in each of these areas, but in some we continue to have real differences, about which we must be candid. In particular, I look to China to work with us to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, to halt the genocide in Darfur, and to help reverse the slide into anarchy in Zimbabwe.

On Human Rights
Greater progress in protecting the human rights of all its people and moving toward democracy and rule of law will better enable China to achieve its full potential as a nation, domestically and internationally. China's own people will expect, indeed demand, this. Such change will not weaken China, as its leaders may fear, but will provide a firmer basis for long-term stability and prosperity. China cannot stand indefinitely apart from the global trend toward democratic government, rule of law and full exercise of human rights. Protection of the unique cultural and religious traditions of the Tibetan people is an integral part of such an agenda.

U.S.-China Policy under a McCain Administration

China's double-digit growth rates have brought hundreds of millions out of poverty, energized the economies of its neighbors and produced manifold new economic opportunities. The U.S. shares common interests with China that can form the basis of a strong partnership on issues of global concern, including climate change, trade and proliferation. But some of China's economic practices, combined with its rapid military modernization, lack of political freedom and close relations with regimes like Sudan and Burma, tend to undermine the very international system on which its rise depends. The next American president must build on the areas of overlapping interest to forge a more durable U.S.-China relationship.

On Protectionism
It must be a priority of the next American president to expand America's economic relationships in Asia. Unfortunately, in what has become an all-too-predictable pattern, some American politicians — including the Democratic candidate for president — are preying on the fears stoked by Asia's dynamism. Rather than encouraging American innovation and entrepreneurship, they instead propose throwing up protectionist walls that will leave us all worse off. The United States has never won respect or created jobs by retreating from free trade, and we cannot start doing so now.

We also must recognize, however, that while open trade with Asia is in America's interest, globalization will not automatically benefit every American. That's why we must remain committed to education, retraining and help for displaced workers, regardless of whether their job went away because of trade, technological innovation, or shifts in consumer spending patterns. For Americans who have lost a job, we need to expand opportunities for further education and training that can open new doors. We need to modernize our unemployment insurance system to reflect the reality of the 21st century economy. Jobs that go away no longer come back when business rebounds. We need to help displaced workers make ends meet between jobs and move people quickly on to the next opportunity.

On Open Markets
China has obligations as well. Its commitment to open markets must include enforcement of international trade rules, protecting intellectual property, lowering manufacturing tariffs, and fulfillment of its commitment to move to a market-determined currency.

On Climate Change
Beyond our economic relationship, the U.S. shares other common interests with China that can form the basis of a strong partnership on issues of global concern. In addressing the problem of climate change, for instance, Chinese cooperation will be essential. If we are going to establish meaningful environmental protocols, they must include the two nations — China and India — that have the potential to pollute the air faster, and in greater annual volumes, than any nation ever in history. The United States should continue to negotiate in good faith with China and other nations to enact the standards and controls that are in the interest of every nation, whatever their stage of economic development. America can take the lead in offering these developing nations low-carbon technologies that we will all need. Given the environmental challenges so evident in China today, pressing on with uncontrolled carbon emissions is in no one's interest.

On China's Rise
China's growing power and influence endow it with the obligation to behave as a responsible stakeholder in global politics. China could bolster its claim that it is "peacefully rising" by being more transparent about its significant military buildup and by working with the world to isolate pariah states. In addition, how a nation treats its citizens is a legitimate subject of international concern in today's world. China has signed numerous international agreements that make its domestic behavior more than just a matter of national sovereignty. To be a responsible stakeholder in the modern international system, a government must also be responsible at home in protecting the rights of its people.
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