Sunday, August 12, 2007

AFL-CIO Hosts the Democratic Presidential Candidates Forum, and Yomiuri Goes with Senator Clinton Bashing China.

The headline of the Japanese-language article reads: "I Won't Eat Horrible Quality Chinese Food Products" Senator Clinton Declares.. According to the article, she said that "we need to deal with Chinese manipulation of its currency" and went on to state that "strict standards should be imposed on imports from China" and that she "wouldn't eat horrible quality Chinese food, nor would [she] buy toys that made children sick." She received "applause and cheers". Barack Obama and John Edwards were also quoted in what "created an appearance of China bashing". (The online Asahi does not mention the debate at all.)

Compare this with the US media, such as the WaPo, which focused on the efforts of the candidates to show off their pro-labor credentials, as well as the war on terror (with Mr. Obama's designs on targets in Pakistan serving as the bone of contention); the NYT, which went mainly with immigration as a labor issue, with a brief Obama/Pakistan coda; and the AP by way of WaPo, which covered more or less the same ground as the lengthier WaPo original. But nowhere in any of these articles, or anywhere else on the English-language sites that I follow, is there any mention of China. Even AFL-CIO's own weblog, which covered the event extensively, ignores it altogether.

This contrast in media perspective reflects a huge gap in the ways the two nations each see the world. In Japan, the US and China are seen as the main external forces shaping our policy agenda. In the US, the China question still lacks immediacy in the political debate. It will figure more prominently there as various pieces of protectionist legislation make their way through Congress and presidential candidates work hard to show their pro-American credentials and look responsible at the same time. The human right issue should also become an important part of mainly the Democratic debate as the August 2008 Beijing Olympics draws near. But even then, China does not figure to be a decisive issue in the 2008 elections.

The number one external issue for the US is, of course, the conflation of the war on terror and the war in Iraq. In bypassing the commotion altogether, the Japanese media reminds us that, for us, the war on terror and the war on Iraq are distant events on foreign shores and hills and vales. And it is this gap that complicates the most immediate problem facing the divided Diet: the extension of the anti-terrorism act, which expires on November 1.

You can find what the candidates said about China here and here. For your convenience, I've copied Ms. Clinton's comments here:

SEN. CLINTON: I want to say amen to Joe Biden, because he’s 100 percent right. You know, six and a half years ago, we had a balanced budget and a surplus; now we are in deep debt with a rising deficit, and it is absolutely true that George Bush has put it on the credit card, expecting our children and grandchildren to pay for it. We’ve got to get back to fiscal responsibility in order to undercut the Chinese power over us because of the debt we hold.

We also have to deal with their currency manipulation. We have to have tougher standards on what they import into this country. I do not want to eat bad food from China or have my children having toys that are going to get them sick. So let’s be tougher on China going forward. (Cheers, applause.)


Blue Dog said...

I think the candidates, the policy makers know how important China is and will be, but it simply is not yet a primary campaign issue. I think this will change after the primaries when you have the Republican and Democratic candidates going head to head.

Jun Okumura said...

Ⅰagree with you, BlueDog. And I'm sure you'll agree that it will not be a decisive issue in the 2008 elections, if only because the main candidates will tack away from the White House and support politically expedient legislation that targets China without setting off a trade war.