As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Romney’s Nasty, Destructive China Bashing

Gov. Mitt Romney is playing an uncharacteristic game of populist nonsense with his vow to declare China a “currency manipulator” on Day One of his administration.

Most American business leaders, whom this is designed to benefit, oppose the move and know it’s garbage as economic policy. The outrage is, with his knowledge of business and international finance, Romney realizes it’s garbage too. And yet, to gain votes, he holds out the promise of something that he knows will do little at best to aid the U.S. economy and that risks great harm.

What’s worse, the rhetoric appeals to some of voters’ worst instincts, tapping into xenophobia to help spur enthusiasm for Romney’s candidacy.

China’s manipulation of its currency, valuing it at an artificially low level to make its exports cheaper and ours more expensive, is a real and serious issue. It costs American jobs – though it also makes Chinese goods sold in the United States cheaper. But hey, I’ve never seen anything labeled as “Made in China,” have you?

Yes, that’s a joke.

But Romney’s idea is all wrong.

First of all, don’t be deceived. If Romney declares China a currency manipulator, exactly nothing happens. Negotiations over China’s manipulation of its currency, the renminbi, begin. But there already are negotiations over China’s manipulation of the renminbi.

Supposedly, if Romney is dissatisfied with the result of the talks, he can start to assess tariffs on Chinese goods. So get ready to pay more for the iPhone 6, whenever it comes out, and for your kids’ Christmas 2013 gifts.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. Actually, it’s not clear that any tariffs will go into effect ever, since they will be challenged at the World Trade Organization and then years of litigation will begin.

What Romney certainly will be achieving is a slap in the face of a country where “loss of face” is taken very seriously. Particularly now, as China is installing a new leadership that has to show it can’t be messed with.

The Chinese actually have been slowly reducing the manipulation of their currency at a rate they think suitable for their economy, where a sudden change in the renminbi’s value can have bad ramifications. They are not going to make big changes that will have a significant impact on U.S. jobs just because of U.S. pressure. What they might do, though it’s also unlikely, is smack some tariffs on our goods and start a trade war, which would be a disaster for both sides.

What would happen for sure, though, is that Romney will get off to a terrible start with our most significant partner – and adversary – in the world. China will be uncooperative on issues where we need its help, and more adversarial than it otherwise would have been on issues where we disagree.

Plus, having already played a card against the Chinese, Romney will have less leverage in other areas, like human rights and combatting Chinese expansionism. That would be fine if we were going to benefit from the trade manipulation designation. But we won’t.

On this issue, Obama is being more responsible than Romney. Romney should be ashamed of his rank populism. And, I suspect, he probably is.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

17 Responses to Romney’s Nasty, Destructive China Bashing

  1. I don’t know much about how any country manipulates their currency, but I do know that the Obama administration has been manipulating our currency for years. Our dollar has been devalued over and over.
    Maybe we should call MrObama’s approval of Q1, Q2, and the rest “nasty” and call him out for shame, too.

    As for the hurt feelings of the Chinese, I don’t care. If tariffs are added to items imported from China and they’re more expensive than they are today, how is that different from the price of unleaded gasoline, food, energy, and everything else that has risen to inflationary numbers under the Obama administration. We have higher unemployment, food stamp reciepients, people scamming a living on Social Security Disablility and no promise that things will get better and it all happened in the last 6 years.
    Anything, anyone could not possibly do worse than MrObama.

  2. Do you think this is just posturing? After all, who was our last President that wasn’t just rolled by China? With the China leadership transition and their economic issues, they are looking to assert themselves more on the international stage – if the US is serious about protecting our interests in that region (Taiwan, Japan, etc.) then the “less bark, more wag” sissified approach isn’t going to work very well.

    I get the whole face-saving with Chinese culture (I work with the Chinese) but let’s not forget that China is also posturing substantially and have opened themselves up for losing face more so than Romney has. Just like with Obama, Romney has proven he has no problem staring down his opposition – China needs to understand that they may not be dealing with the bowing apologist any longer. I actually don’t see Romney’s stances and statements as an impediment to negotiations – everyone who does this for a living (which I do) knows you can’t negotiate up – once you start talking, the only way to go is down, so why start low by being conciliatory from the outset?

  3. Obama is not more responsible than Romney will be in any aspect of leading this country. Obama is a fraud and a failure as commander in chief. Whatever policies Romney wants to enact, he will work with Congress to accomplish them. He is not an imperial president like the current occupant. In my opinion, if anybody should be ashamed, it is Obama. He has shamed this country and he has shamed himself for neglecting to act to protect our American patriots in Benghazi.

  4. I used to have to work with China. They cannot be trusted . . . none of them. They are definitely in the area of sort of trust but verify about 10 times.

  5. Mr. Koffler, being a wannabe “China specialist” this is an excellent editorial.
    So, so many American are CLULESS when it comes to China and it bothers me to see Romney say this stuff.

  6. First, are these the same business leader a$$holes that all said raising taxes (for our dysfunctional Congress to spend) is a good idea to get out of this pickle? Are these the same corporate a$$holes that got in bed with Obama four years ago? One shouldn’t accept the premise that just because someone climbs to the top of corporate America, they’re smarter than everyone else, especially when it comes to foreign policy. They’re just demonstrating risk aversion…which probably got them to where they are today.

    Here’s the deal with China (from someone who’s been there). Currency manipulation is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s talk about intellectual property theft, theft of military technology by hacking and espionage, the development of a Chinese blue water Navy and expanding their sphere of influence,the replacement of the dollar with the RMB as a reserve currency in many parts of the world now and the amount of OUR DEBT THEY OWN.

    Romney’s posturing is good in my opinion. The Chinese ARE very sensitive to saving face and they are also very responsive to chest thumping. Too much talk without the right amount of getting in their face is perceived as a weakness. It’ll be give and take like always, so don’t worry.

    And I think the Made in America cheer leading is a good thing. Even if Romney wins, the American collapse clock is still running…just a bit slower. The only way we’re getting out of this mess is with an economic boom (maybe of all time) because there won’t be enough budgets that will actually get cut nor enough wealth to confiscate. Manufacturing has to be a large part of that boom. Services and internet “stuff” ain’t going to cut it.

  7. Sorry, but you are wrong. ovomit does NOTHING right. And EVERYTHING he does is for his own benefit and to further his cause of destroying this country.

  8. Larry, that’s the way I see it, the thefts and espionage along with hacking attacks are more serious than paying more for Chinese goods, besides if I can’t find an American product, I’ll try Japanese or Taiwanese, our allies or just do without.

  9. Nice piece Keith. Kind of Nice to see someone else flogged a bit for expressing an opinion that acknowledges that Mitt is, in the final analysis, just as opportunistic as the typical politician. It is, what it is.

    Recently, the Governor was asked what his favorite color was. Pressed for an answer, he said “plaid”… The reporter retorted, “ah, so you and the President agree on something afterall!”

  10. The Chinese are a threat on so many levels. Without sounding like a policy wonk, I’ll give Romney props for even bringing up currency manipulations. As other have posted here, China has cheated or cornered us on many economic and tech fronts.
    TRADE: Fmr Sec Rice outlined them beautifully at the RNC convention this year. The Chinese control the world’s known deposits of Rare Earth metals (your cell phone is full of these rare and highly conductive metal see LANTHANIDES on the periodic table)
    SECURITY:Some years ago, an IP address from Bejing hacked the NASA computers at Moffett and stole the blueprints for the Saturn V launch vehicle. More recently, another IP address from China using a Hamburg mirror hacked and retasked/distroyed a satellite out of JPL in Pasadena. The chinese are not to be trusted.
    AGGRESSIVE BUSINESS:While we pacify Afghanistan, the Chinese are hiring the same Afghan security forces as a personal police force while they mine one of the biggest copper deposits discovered in Afghanistan.

  11. Romney’s position bothers me not one bit. Right now, Chavez and Putin are all in for Obama’s re election and perhaps China as well, although I do not know this. I’m with Rod — China is in transition, and she is becoming more aggressive in areas that are strategic to us. No problem starting high. And all the people I know doing business in China all report that Obama is laughable to the Chinese in power. I too get saving face and having worked internationally am all for cultural sensitivity but I am one and done with this apology tour. We need to start leveling the playing field.

  12. Just started reading your blog. Nice assessment of Romney’s China policy—now you just need to review all his other misguided policies! Seriously, though,currency manipulation, intellectual property rights protection, and market access, among others are all serious issues in the U.S.-China relationship. What has been missing on both sides during the campaign is a serious debate on these issues and all the others we need to address with regard to China’s rise.