Kennedy: McCain and Obama on China-Part II: economic, climate, and human rights issues |

Kennedy: McCain and Obama on China-Part II: economic, climate, and human rights issues

Matthew Kennedy

“China still has this problem of unbalanced development between different regions and between China’s urban and rural areas…We still have 800 million farmers in rural areas, and we still [have] dozens of million people living in poverty. To address our own problems, we need to do a great deal”


Wen Jiabao, China’s Prime Minister during an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, September 28, 2008.

China’s economic and political transformation is one of the 21st century’s mind-boggling phenomenons.

The transformation is felt internationally, domestically, and locally. Many products sold in Dillon, Breckenridge, Silverthorne, and Frisco have the “Made in China” label on them. Beijing’s presence is also seen in Summit County’s high gas prices.

China has morphed from a command to a nearly capitalist economy in less than thirty years. It possesses an insatiable, understandable, energy desire. China still retains a Communist style system-a system which prohibits many of the political freedoms Americans enjoy. Various U.S. policymakers insist Beijing should introduce Western style political rights. China could experience a nation-wide crisis exceeding the scale of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident-if Beijing acceded to Washington’s demands.

The Sino-American relationship will present a daunting challenge for the next President. The question must then be asked, where do Obama and McCain stand on China?

Both campaigns are worried about Beijing’s economic practices. The McCain camp believes China can only become an open market if it adheres to international trade regulations and protects intellectual property. Obama contends Beijing can augment the global economy and serve as a prime source for American exports. These can occur if China follows internationally mandated economic and trade regulations.

The McCain and Obama campaigns have different approaches towards the aforementioned issues. Each camp supports augmenting the enforcement of U.S. trade laws. Obama advocates enhancing the implementation of any Sino-American trade agreements. His campaign supports utilizing U.S. diplomacy to compel China to alter its economic practices. McCain advocates using the World Trade Organization to achieve the above objectives. China’s currency practices and its product safety concern both candidates. McCain believes Beijing should allow market forces to influence its currency policy. Obama argues China’s currency practices provide “Chinese companies with an unfair competitive advantage.” Neither campaign addresses how it will confront Beijing on the matter. Obama and McCain have an issue with China’s product liability. McCain supports improving the enforcement of U.S. safety product laws to address the problem. The Obama campaign, however, fails to detail how it will resolve the matter.

A final difference among both campaigns relating to monetary affairs is McCain believes the U.S. should expand its involvement in China’s various social and economic sectors. These include retail ventures, environmental protection, health, education, and the financial sector. The Obama campaign’s website fails to address any of these issues.

A secondary subject of concern for both campaigns is China’s contribution to energy affairs and climate change. The McCain and Obama camps see Beijing as a necessity for any global environmental accord to succeed. McCain contends China’s participation is essential, considering it is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. One issue Obama campaign is worried about, but McCain doesn’t examine is China’s oil exploration practices. Obama sees Beijing’s oil policies as a negative factor for international markets, plus global governance and investment practices. The Obama campaign is eager to work with China on resolving the problem. It further believes China’s cooperation is vital towards finding an energy source that is non-carbon based, non-oil reliant, and avoids releasing greenhouse gases.

The last issue both are worried about is China’s human rights record. McCain and Obama believe Beijing has a responsibility to safeguard its people’s political rights. Both argue it is vital considering China is a major global player. McCain contends this is a necessity, considering Beijing has signed various, related, international agreements. A key difference between both campaigns is Obama supports pressing Chinese authorities to change its human and political rights policies. The McCain campaign fails to detail how it will deal with Beijing on the subject.

How an Obama or McCain administration navigates the Chinese relationship will influence Summit County residents-be it the price of Chinese imported products, the cost of gas, or perhaps even discovering a new energy source, China’s Dragon lurks behind those issues. The Presidential candidates would probably focus more on Sino-American relations-if the country wasn’t facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

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