What The 2010 Election Means For US-China Relations

Discussion in 'China' started by ajtr, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Here's What The 2010 Election Means For US-China Relations

    The votes are cast. The results are in. Republicans rode a populist tidal wave to seize control of the House. Democrats held on to a (fragile) majority in the Senate. So what does it all mean for US-China relations? That’s the question I was asked today on BBC radio.
    As many of you know from reading my bio, I worked as an aide to John Boehner, now expected to become Speaker of the House, during the last Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. And, of course, I’ve been living here in Beijing for several years, teaching US-China business relations at one of China’s top universities. So here’s my “American perspective from China” in the wake of the 2010 midterm elections:

    China played an unusually prominent role in this year’s campaigns, on both sides of the political spectrum. On the right, one infamous ad sponsored by Citizens Against Government Waste featured a Chinese professor, sometime in the not-so-distant future, chuckling with his class over America’s demise due to profligate taxation and spending. On the left, Democrats hammered GOP Senate candidate Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania for once having worked in Hong Kong, while their Senate candidate in Illinois accused his Republican opponent, Mark Kirk, of “treason” for accepting campaign contributions from some of my American expat friends here in Beijing (both Toomey and Kirk ended up winning closely-fought races).
    All the unflattering attention put China in an uncomfortable spot, coming hot on the heels of the House’s overwhelming passage of a bill to impose sanctions on China for keeping its currency artificially weak. The Senate is expected to vote on that bill, or one like it, soon after the election.
    The Chinese, and China’s leaders in particular, like stability, both at home and in their relations with other countries. They find these kind of dramatic electoral swings — whether it’s Obamamania in 2008 or the Tea Party Revolution in 2010 — perplexing and a bit unnerving. The Chinese prefer dealing with known quantities, and then all of a sudden a new group of people are swept into power, who have to be figured out. Typically, the Chinese wait and see, hoping nothing fundamental will change.
    The conventional line that’s often heard in China is that the Chinese quietly prefer dealing with Republicans. Part of this stems from history: Nixon came to China, Bush Sr. served as the first US Ambassador to the PRC. These Republicans had a track record with China, and were “known quantities.” Part of it comes from Mao’s famous tongue-in-cheek saying that he preferred dealing with rightists (rather than fellow leftists) because at least he knew where he stood. Part of it comes from Republicans’ pro-business stance, which makes them more inclined to focus on the benefits of business cooperation with China, as opposed to Democrats, whose labor union constituents are more likely to feel pressure from Chinese competition.
    With Democrats, the Chinese feel like they’re on less certain ground. In fact, however, that’s rooted more in perception than reality. America’s China policy, from Bush Sr. to Clinton to W to Obama, has been remarkably consistent. Differences that do exist over China don’t split neatly along party lines — a broad range of views can be found in both parties. Republicans, when they are critical, tend to focus more on the potential national security threat posed by China. Democrats tend to focus more on the economic threat to American jobs. But even this distinction is far from absolute.
    In fact, the real danger to China is that the bipartisan consensus that has lasted for nearly 40 years may be starting to break down. The factor that is driving this breakdown — and leading to all those anti-China campaign ads, from both sides – isn’t so much a political change in the U.S. (although the depressed state of the US economy isn’t helping any) but China’s own rising power and influence, and concern over what that means. In many ways, China is coming to occupy the same place in the American imagination that Japan did in the 1980s.
    One reason Democrats seized on the ”China issue” so heavily this year was because they had their backs up against the wall, and were looking for something that could give them traction with voters worried about jobs and the economy. Republicans, on the other hand, already had plenty of other things to talk about, such as Obama’s health care and stimulus spending. Heavily Democratic unions, particularly the United Steelworkers, have led the fight to impose sanctions on a broad range of Chinese imports, including tires and steel pipes. But it’s worth noting that, while Democrats sponsored and drove passage of the House bill on currency, and the few who voted against it were mainly Republicans, a majority of both parties voted in favor. Part of that may just be vulnerable Republicans running scared in an election season. Perhaps some of the immediate pressure to take a hard line on China may ease a bit, now that the campaign is over.
    But I wouldn’t bet on it. There is, in fact, growing frustration and concern over China on both sides of the aisle — for both good reasons and bad. And this election, while dramatic, resolved nothing. Had Republicans won the Senate, perhaps unseating Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer in the process, this year would have qualified as a genuine political rout, much like 1994. The GOP would have controlled the agenda, and Obama (like Clinton) would have had to figure out a way to respond. Instead, political forces are now roughly in balance.
    House Republicans have the energy and momentum, but have little power to directly overrule an entrenched Democratic President and Senate. Both sides will have to jockey for position with an eye towards 2012. If they’re smart (politically), they’ll try to force each other into a corner on issues that touch a popular nerve. In this respect, China stands as a ready and useful weapon with which each party can bludgeon the other. (Plus, consider the fact that Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, old-line manufacturing states where the Chinese competitive threat resonates most, are all key battleground states in the presidential contest).
    Who can be tougher on China, Democrats or Republicans? I suspect, in the days ahead, we’re going to find out.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/elections-2010-and-us-china-relations-2010-11#ixzz14Hysi8Pi
  3. Vladimir79

    Vladimir79 Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

    Jul 1, 2009
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    The election won't effect their Chinese policy. It is probably the only bipartisan issue they have.
  4. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Hyderabad and Sydney
    Results Cheered in China And Israel, Rued in Russia

    Global observers broadly concurred Wednesday that Republicans' midterm election gains would plunge President Barack Obama deep into a domestic political fracas—a looming distraction that cheered China and parts of Israel, disheartened much of Asia and Russia and raised little response in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The results contrasted starkly with the 2008 U.S. presidential election, which elevated the first African-American to the White House and was viewed from the U.K. and Germany to Africa as a watershed political moment.

    Republicans' recapture of the House "confirmed that Obama's election wasn't the deeply transformative moment in American politics that many Europeans hoped it would be," said Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris.

    The question internationally was whether the prospect of fresh domestic battles would affect international U.S. initiatives such as shoring up ties with Asian nations and attempting to "reset" relations with Russia.

    Southeast Asia's main fear is that the Obama Administration could be distracted from its efforts to position the U.S. as a counterweight to China's growing influence in the region. The U.S. has recently urged some countries to stand up to China's growing influence and has angered Beijing by suggesting an international forum to resolve maritime conflicts with Southeast Asian nations and Japan.

    Beijing, on the flip side, hopes Congressional Republicans' domestic focus will take the wind out those efforts. China generally favors Republican presidents over Democrats, who tend to focus more on human-rights issues. It considers the Obama Administration more confrontational than its predecessor, for whom foreign policy was dominated by Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But Chinese foreign-policy makers and experts are also wary of growing concerns on both sides of the House about how China plans to use its rapidly expanding economic and military power, and what effect that will have on U.S. interests.

    Officials in Russia voiced fear that a Republican resurgence could threaten Mr. Obama's attempt to warm mutual relations. On Wednesday, the chairman of a key committee in the Russian parliament said it would withdraw its recommendation that the legislature ratify the U.S.-Russia treaty reducing nuclear weapons—a major achievement of the so-called reset—while it assesses the chances the U.S. Senate will ratify the treaty.

    "If they can't do this in the lame-duck session in the next couple of weeks, the chances for ratification by the new Senate will be radically lower," said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the International Affairs Committee in the State Duma.

    The U.S. results heartened some right-leaning Israelis, including settler leaders, who have seen President Obama's Mideast policy as antagonistic and now view his repudiation in the polls as a sign he may be less able to pressure Israel into concessions in stalled peace talks.

    Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council, which represents Jewish settlers in the West Bank, said he hoped the new Congress "will facilitate a more reasoned and open-minded approach to Israel's needs than what we've experienced over the last two years."

    In countries where the U.S. has its deepest involvements, the reaction was muted. The election merited little coverage, and elicited little response, in Afghanistan. The U.S. midterm also barely registered among Iraqis, whose own politicians have wrangled for eight months over forming a new government amid a renewed campaign of deadly insurgent attacks.

    "I as an Iraqi citizen don't care for the American elections as much as I [want] Iraqi politicians to form the government," said Eman Abdul Razzaq, a 36-year-old housewife.

    Mr. Obama's campaign promise to wrap up the Iraq war, and his accelerated timeline to withdraw U.S. combat troops, has torn Iraqis. Many are happy to see the Americans leave, but many others have watched with apprehension as U.S. forces head home, worried about whether Iraq's security forces can fill the void.

    Africa advocates, meanwhile, lost an aggressive champion of human rights with Tuesday's ousting of Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. As the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee on African affairs, the long-serving Democrat advocated a more comprehensive policy on Somalia that focused on resolving the conflict rather than just combating terrorism. He helped to pass legislation to develop a regional strategy to combat the Lord's Resistance Army, a murderous band of rebels that roams in northern Uganda and border areas.

    The senator was also an early advocate for a more nuanced policy on Sudan, a multifaceted conflict that involves the genocide in Darfur and a decades-long civil war between the north and south. As part of the resolution to that struggle, Sudan is currently preparing for a critical referendum in January that could split the state in two. The U.S. has made the referendum a top foreign-policy priority, and Sen. Feingold, Sudan activists say, was instrumental in keeping it on the agenda.

    "The biggest missing piece will be that steady drumbeat from Sen. Feingold, pushing the administration to keep the attention on these issues," said Sam Bell, executive director of the U.S.-based Save Darfur Coalition and Genocide Intervention Network, a group of civil society groups focused on Sudan.

    Many world observers saw the mid-term pendulum swing as a given in U.S. politics, where even popular presidents such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton lost support in by-elections.

    "We all understand the reason for this [defeat]: disappointment that Obama isn't a magician," said Sergei Markov, a senior legislator from the ruling United Russia party. " Unlike voters in the U.S., we in Russia already knew he wasn't a magician."

    But Mr. Markov called the vote result was a worrisome sign of growing polarization in U.S. politics, with what he called "radical provincialism" rising on the right. "In the U.S., the center is weakening, it's evidence of rising instability in the U.S."

    "It's not just a problem of Republican victory but that the Republicans are changing, they're becoming more of a dark force," Mr. Markov said. "Europeans are very scared that Obama will be replaced something monstrous like Sarah Palin."

    "For Europe, America stopped being a problem after Obama was elected. But it could become a problem again, even worse than it was under Bush," he added.

    In France, politicians and analysts shared a concern that the Democrat party defeat would hamper Mr. Obama's capacity to make decisions on key issues such as financial regulation and taxes and lead to a "stalemate in Washington."

    Some feared a paralysis of U.S. politics would have international consequences, at a time when most industrialized nations are limping out of recession and struggling to co-ordinate policies. "That would be the worst situation," said Frédéric Lefebvre, spokesman for Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the ruling party of France's President Nicolas Sarkozy. "We can't afford to shift into reverse mode; France and Europe need the U.S. to move forward."

    German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle sought to reassure German TV viewers that President Obama's authority on international affairs isn't badly damaged. The U.S. leader remains popular in the EU's biggest country, whereas many Germans associate the Republican party with former president George W. Bush's unilateralism and invasion of Iraq. Mr. Westerwelle has repeatedly praised Mr. Obama's commitment to diplomacy and to the goal of nuclear disarmament.

    "One would massively underestimate the president of the United States if one wanted to think that he would be weakened in foreign policy," Mr. Westerwelle told German state broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday.

    The U.S. election campaign was dominated by "domestic and economic issues," Mr. Westerwelle said, adding: "The American president is a very strong and decisive president."

    Even as much of the world considered Tuesday's election a rebuke to President Obama, it may only increase his popularity in Turkey.

    At the Karakoy Gulluoglu landmark bakery in Istanbul, the "Baraklava"—giant image of President Obama made in Turkey's flaky, sweet baklava pastry —is still pleasing the crowds two years after it was made in honor of Mr. Obama's election, says proprietor Nadir Gullu.

    "Maybe the mistakes [that led to the Democrats' drubbing in midterm elections] weren't his, but the people around him," says Mr. Gullu. When he pulls out the Baraklava, "even Iraqis and Iranians start smiling and snapping pictures," he says.

    Mr. Obama remains personally more popular in Turkey than his policies or the U.S. itself, a curiosity, given the series of disputes and wrangles the two Cold War allies have had over Armenia, Israel, Iran and other issues since he came to power. But Turks appear to have disassociated Mr. Obama from the U.S. administration as a whole.

    "Turks generally believe Obama is sincere, but has not been able to do what he wanted," says Kerim Balci, a columnist who describes himself as speaking for Turkey's "religious majority" and is now editor of a recently launched foreign policy magazine, Turkish Review.

    According to Mr. Balci, among religious Turks sympathy for Mr. Obama may even have risen over the past two years. Often called "Black Turks" and excluded for decades from power by a dominant, military-backed secularist elite, religious Turks sympathized with Mr. Obama as the first black American president, he says. They likened his struggle to get things done once in power with similar entrenched resistance that has faced Turkey's Islamic leaning government.

    "They had sympathy for him when he was elected because he was black, and in the view of these religious Turks, now seems even more black," says Mr. Balci.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010

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