By JFK Miller
So it’s Huckabee and Obama in Iowa. Clearly it’s early days, and neither candidate is a certainty for their respective parties’ nomination for the November presidential election. But it’s worth looking at what both candidates have had to say on the record about China.
First Huck. Huck is a Baptist minister turned Republican politician who wrote a best-selling book about his fat-shedding experience entitled Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork. He also shares at least three similarities with Bill Clinton — they’re both from the city of Hope, they’re both former governors of Arkansas, and they both have to deal with Hillary.
Here’s what he had to say in April last year in Time in response to a reader’s question, “How are you planning to deal with China as a rising power?
“The good news is that China is becoming much more a part of the mainstream. In its economic development and even in giving greater liberties to its people. But the urgent news is that China needs to play by all the rules that we are expected to play by, in terms of trade, protection of intellectual property rights and the decent treatment of workers. I am not as worried about China, though we have to be concerned about any nation that has the military and economic power that it does. I think we need to be more concerned from a standpoint of anxiety from nations led by radical and outspoken tyrants who openly issue threats to the United States and its people.”
The first two sentences could have been lifted straight from a CPC National Congress press release. The rest of it is pretty mild… China needs to play ball, crack down on DVD and other pirates, and be nice to workers.
But then this in September from Huck’s own blog:
“Our government has failed us by allowing the Chinese to buy up extraordinary amounts of our currency, and then manipulate that currency to artificially lower their prices and to force things back into the country… we’ve got to do a better job to balance our trade relationships, especially with China. We have not challenged them enough on intellectual property rights nor have we challenged them enough on the regulatory front.”
A bit harsher, but he clearly puts the blame on Washington for failing to take a tougher line with Beijing.
Huck also visited Taiwan in 2006 and met with President Chen Shui-bian. We can’t imagine Beijing would be over the moon about that, but then Arkansas governors meet with all sorts of people — Huck with Chen, Clinton with Gennifer Flowers…
Critics of Huck, such as those over at the China-e-lobby blog, say his softness on China makes him unsuitable for the White House. In short, he “stinks.”. But then they also hate Giuliani and McCain, and favor Duncan Hunter, a Vietnam vet turned Congressman who is little known outside the U.S.. But Hunter is a no-chancer; ABC News has already axed him from their line-up for the next round of debates.
Then there’s Obama on the Democrat side. Obama has called China a “competitor,” and stressed the importance of establishing military-to-military contact for security in the region. In July last year, Obama, together with Hillary, put his name to a bill imposing high duties on Chinese goods, a move intended to pressure China into revaluing its currency.
It’s a somewhat tougher line than Huck’s (at least he’s taken action), and Obama has also spoken out on Sudan to pressure China to do more to stop the genocide in Darfur. Still, we can’t imagine the bods in BJ shaking in their boots…
The Council on Foreign Relations has done a useful round-up of the rest of the various candidates’ positions on China here.