Mitt Romney has been making hay on the campaign trail over President Obama’s lack of a consistently assertive policy on trade with China, and Team Obama is attempting to turn Romney’s argument on its head and instead hoist him with his own petard. In classic Team-Obama fashion, however, they’re setting up a falsely equivalent, populist narrative that in essence yet again hits Romney for being an effective and successful global businessman, rather than on the actual policies that Mitt Romney is referring to in his own attacks.
On the campaign trail in Ohio today, President Obama is planning on touting his own administration’s ostensible credentials on keeping tabs on China, while simultaneously going after Romney on his private investments entangled in the Chinese economy. Here’s the ad that Team Obama released today on the subject:
The way Team Obama is framing this little blurb of low-rent intellectual dishonesty is actually pretty clever — in essence, ‘Hey, why is Mitt Romney getting rich off of the very perpetrators he claims are cheaters?’ But, if you think about it a little more deeply, what exactly is it that President Obama is proposing here? That it’s wrong for the United States to do business and engage in free trade with China, which is all that Mitt Romney did? Because that would benefit exactly nobody.
To borrow one of the president’s favorite phrases, let me be clear: I do not in any shape, manner, or form approve of China’s communist, oppressive, brutal regime. I have only disdain for communism in all its forms, and sympathy for the soul-crushing drudgery in which millions of people in China live. A family friend of ours who recently got back from living a few years abroad in China told us that her impression was that the country is run by about 100 people, and there are a million and one state-controlled mechanisms in place to just herd the brainwashed masses right along. Whatever the exact number of China’s communist-party upper crust might be, I’d say that sounds about right — the tiny ruling class is willing to sacrifice significant gains from trade in order to maintain their power and and privilege. But that doesn’t mean that cutting off trade would be the best way to influence China’s political order, au contraire.
Free trade is a surefire way to encourage freedom and democracy, and one of the best routes through which we can positively impact what goes on over there. Interaction via business cooperation can help to spread both a wealth of ideas and material prosperity, and if China really wants to unleash the power of their people’s ingenuity and promote innovation, they’d have a lot of liberalizing political-economic reforms to put in place before they could even come close to getting on our level.
The rise of China as it stands today is indeed cause for alarm; but a freer, more open, liberalized China would be a boon to them, us, and the world at large. There is much ado about China’s GDP overtaking ours within the next few years (although, not even remotely in per-capita terms), but the thing about communism is that it traditionally doesn’t do too well in the long-term. While our own financial mess is dire, to be sure, China’s got their own gigantic heap of fiscal problems they’re going to have to eventually deal with, and the recent unveiling of their first-ever aircraft carrier is a perfect example of the sort of jingoistic, power-projecting parades they feel compelled to put on in order to maintain their hold over their people.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, none of this necessarily means that we should just go belly-up and let China do whatever they please and walk all over us. Intellectual property theft, for instance, is a real problem that comes at a huge cost to our own economy and our innovators and entrepreneurs, and we need to hold the line on it. But is Barack Obama suggesting that it’s American businesses’ fault for investing in promising global ventures, which then turn around and flout the rules of free-market engagement? As if Mitt Romney should’ve known in advance that these companies would engage in market perfidy, merely because they’re Chinese? As in, Chinese companies do not deserve a chance at all, and no American has any business making money off of them?
Well, heads up, people: We all send China our money and get richer off of them. Just check your clothing labels and beneath your dinner plates. I rather think that Mitt Romney’s business experience makes him better poised to deal with China’s economic malpractice, not less. I’d also be much more comfortable dealing with China if we had our own fiscal house in order and if we were operating at a more robust level of economic growth — things that are guaranteed not to happen under President Obama’s watch.