Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Why is China election scapegoat for Romney, Obama?

By Stan Grant, CNN
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Grant: America is no longer the land of opportunity -- China is
  • Romney, Obama attempt to score points in debate by bashing China
  • Romney: "On day one I will label China a currency manipulator"
  • Obama: "We've put unprecedented trade pressure on China"

Beijing, China (CNN) -- Jonathon Levine was a fiercely ambitious 25-year-old with a Masters degree -- but stuck in a dead end job.

This is not how it was meant to be for a boy raised in New York City, nourished on the American dream that hard work and a good education would bring rewards and riches.

So what did he do? He left.

After researching job vacancies abroad, an opportunity in reclusive North Korea grabbed his attention. Deciding his ambitions didn't stretch that far, Levine settled on a teaching job at Beijing's Tsinghua University instead.

"In the (United) States everyone is so mopey -- it is the end of the world, no jobs, and income inequality is through the roof. We're back to the gilded age in the U.S," he said.

Fact Check: China tire case

I met Levine in the crowded Tsinghua campus cafeteria. He's had to get used to a lot in a short time. But he's getting to grips with the language and can now order exotic new local food.

"You could say it has been a long march," he said.

He is part of a new generation waking up to a new reality. America is no longer the land of opportunity. China is.

While people like Levine get it, U.S. politicians seem bent on casting China as the bad guy. Beijing is accused of keeping its currency low to win an export advantage and steal American jobs.

The China bashing moved to center stage in the second U.S. presidential debate. Both candidates tried to score points against each other by getting tough on China.

"China has been a currency manipulator for years and years and years. And the president has a regular opportunity to label them as a currency manipulator, but refuses to do so. On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator," proclaimed Republican Mitt Romney.

What questions weren't answered in the debate?

In response, President Barack Obama, looking far more engaged than he did during the first debate, said Romney was the last person to get tough on China, accusing him of sending jobs to Asia during his business career.

"Governor Romney talked about China, as I already indicated. In the private sector, Governor Romney's company invested in what were called pioneers of outsourcing. That's not my phrase. That's what reporters called it," Obama said.

"And as far as currency manipulation, the currency has actually gone up 11% since I've been president because we have pushed them hard. And we've put unprecedented trade pressure on China.

"That's why exports have significantly increased under my presidency. That's going to help to create jobs here."

After a softly-softly approach at the beginning of his administration, Obama has switched tack.

He's pivoted U.S. geostrategic policy towards Asia after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While some countries express concern about the intentions of a more powerful and assertive China, the United States is bolstering its relationships in the region.

It is boosting its military presence by carrying out military exercises with allies Japan and South Korea, while some U.S troops have been placed on Australian soil at a new base near the northern city of Darwin.

Many China watchers have couched this as an attempt to block the emerging super power's rise. China's Foreign Ministry has said U.S politicians need to treat China fairly and that in the interests of security the relationship needs to be based on trust.

Checking candidates' facts on foreign policy

Ahead of a visit to Asia by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton last month, an editorial in the state-run Chinese Global Times newspaper claimed "many Chinese people dislike Hillary Clinton.

"She has brought new and extremely profound mutual distrust between the mainstream societies of the two countries."

One of the sources of this hostility has been Washington's perceived interference in maritime disputes with China's neighbors in the region. During her recent visit, Clinton urged those involved in the various territorial disputes to "begin to engage in a diplomatic process toward the shared goal of a code of conduct."

While Chinese officials responded diplomatically by saying that "freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea is assured," another editorial in the Global Times was more scathing, saying it hoped Clinton "can reflect upon the deep harm she is bringing to the Sino-U.S. relationship in the last few months before she leaves office and try to make up for it."

For her part, Clinton has stressed the importance of deepening bilateral ties. "As we continue to expand our work on the consequential issues of our time, we must continue to build on this historic opportunity to deepen our relationship, because a thriving China is good for America and a thriving America is good for China," she said in a goodwill message to mark China's National Day on October 1.

Meanwhile, Levine is watching all of this unfold as he teaches his students about the United States, the country he's left behind.

He says it is misguided to fear China.

"It's not like going to the moon, like it might have been a hundred years ago because communication links us much closer together."

For him this is a new world, interdependent with China as a rapidly emerging new axis of power. And for people like he used to be -- back home and struggling -- he has some only half-joking advice.

"Get out, get out, leave everyone behind you."

Global reaction to final debate: Disappointment

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news in Campaign 2012 at CNN's Election Center. There's the latest news, a delegate counter and much more.
From Cuba to South Africa to Japan, people on five continents tell CNN what they're looking for in a U.S. president.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
The dead-even U.S. election race reflects the nation's deep political chasm across the country. CNN brings you the best election day pictures.
As Americans head to the polls Security Clearance takes one last look at some of the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the candidates.
They represent a sliver of the electorate, yet their choices on Election Day could make a difference.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
The Chinese artist and political dissident says the American system has flaws -- but that China's system is "inhuman."
October 10, 2012 -- Updated 1053 GMT (1853 HKT)
Afghans fear the silence over the bloody 11-year-old war during the U.S. campaign means it is no longer a foreign policy priority.
October 26, 2012 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
Memories of his father may be fading in Kenya -- but from the clubs to the teeming barrios for which Nairobi is notorious, his son is widely admired.
November 6, 2012 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
A look back at CNN's election night coverage, going all the way back to 1980.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Hugo Chavez has endorsed Barack Obama, calling him a "good guy." Is there hope for a fresh start between the U.S. and Venezuela?
Predict which candidate will win each state and see who reaches 270 electoral votes first.
November 5, 2012 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
CNN's Tom Foreman explains how the Electoral College works and what would happen if there were a tie.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Nigerians were thrilled when a "son of Africa" won in 2008. The luster has worn off, but has any of it found its way to Romney?
November 5, 2012 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
If there's one thing that would have struck a chord with Hong Kongers, it was Barack Obama and Mitt Romney using China as a political punching bag.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
China bashing has taken center stage in the U.S. election, where everyone seem bent on casting China as the bad guy.
Christian Amanpour says the chance to transform Afghanistan is slipping away -- and that the election won't make a difference.
October 17, 2012 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
Obama's "Yes we can" message has long faded away amid plummeting relations between the two countries, writes Masud Alam.
See where the nation stands on one of the tightest races for the White House in years. Follow the numbers as Americans flock to the polls.
November 6, 2012 -- Updated 2120 GMT (0520 HKT)
With the months-long campaign finished and the presidential election under way, CNN brings you the best pictures from the campaign trail.
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 HKT)
For many in Iraq following the U.S. election, the Republican party remains the party of deeply-despised George W. Bush.
October 11, 2012 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
After months of talking about each other, Obama and Romney finally go toe-to-toe. But do debates actually affect election outcomes?
Use an interactive map to explore the money game and the strategies of the Obama and Romney campaigns.
October 8, 2012 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Mitt Romney promises to take the U.S. back to a foreign policy based on exerting global influence through military and economic power.
October 2, 2012 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Brooke Baldwin talks to Erin Burnett about foreign policy being a major component of the 2012 presidential election.
October 9, 2012 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
CNN fact checks Mitt Romney's claim that Barack Obama was 'silent' when anti-regime protests broke out in Iran in 2009.
October 9, 2012 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Yanis Varoufakis says some Athenians fear Europe is waiting until after the U.S. election before cutting Greece loose from the euro.
Get the latest political news, campaign stories, and Washington coverage from CNN's team of political experts.
CNN's Security Clearance experts take a country-by-country look at the differences between the candidates' approach to foreign policy.
October 9, 2012 -- Updated 1308 GMT (2108 HKT)
Whoever wins the upcoming U.S. election will find Cuba in a state of flux, says Nobel Prize nominee Yoani Sanchez.
July 29, 2012 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem tell CNN which U.S. presidential candidate is better for their cause.
July 21, 2012 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
People in London step up to CNN's Open Mic and deliver their messages to the U.S. and its presidential candidates.
May 22, 2012 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Award-winning novelist Manu Joseph says there must be something about human nature that divides the species into Democrats and Republicans.
June 1, 2012 -- Updated 0604 GMT (1404 HKT)
Mexicans step up to CNN's Open Mic and offer their messages to the U.S. presidential candidates.
April 24, 2012 -- Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)
The U.S. election race conjures up images of mud flying through the air for many Japanese.
March 5, 2012 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
With the amount of campaign spending in the U.S. projected to exceed $6 billion, we look at how this compares to other countries.
ADVERTISEMENT