Still, given the delicate balance of interests and conflicts between the United States and China, which are the largest and second-largest economies in the world and last year had bilateral trade worth some $539 billion, many observers think it unlikely that either Romney or Obama would introduce a radically different approach to China in 2013.
That didn’t stop the two from swapping China-related barbs at New York’s Hofstra University on Tuesday.
Obama needled Romney, who co-founded the private equity firm Bain Capital, for his business dealings here.
“When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China, and is currently investing … in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks … Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China,” Obama said.
Romney later retorted, “Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies.”
Nicholas Lardy, a Peterson analyst who’s written extensively on the Chinese economy, recently cautioned against expecting a vast shift in America policy.
“I tend to think that the change might be significantly less than you would imagine based on some of the rhetoric,” Lardy said in remarks posted to the institute’s website last month.
Of Chinese officials watching the presidential campaign, Lardy remarked that, “I think they’ve learned over the years that the rhetoric escalates in campaigns, but there frequently isn’t a follow through. I think they’re very much of the school, we are going to watch and see what you actually do.”