US President Barack Obama dismissed Republican rival Mitt Romney’s tough talk on China at their second US presidential debate, as the two sparred over how to handle ties with the world’s No. 2 economy.
China policy has emerged as a key issue in the race for the White House, with Obama mocking his foe’s record of making money on overseas investments and Romney countering that the Democratic incumbent has been soft on Beijing.
“Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China,” Obama said at Tuesday’s debate after Romney repeated his promise to crack down on Beijing over its widely criticized trade practices and currency policy.
“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,” Obama said.
Obama’s aggressive response may have referred to a story his campaign has highlighted recently: a New York Times article from earlier this year that laid out how Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Romney, was profiting from investments in Chinese companies.
The piece detailed how a Bain-run fund in which a Romney blind trust has holdings bought the video surveillance division of a Chinese firm that says it is the largest supplier to a monitoring system that allows Beijing to watch over schools, hospitals and theaters.
Romney made a point of returning to the issue of China multiple times during the fiery town hall-style debate at Hofstra University in New York — the second of three debates before the Nov. 6 vote.
“China has been a currency manipulator for years and years,” Romney said, lambasting Obama for not labeling Beijing as such. “On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator.”
Obama fired back, saying the yuan had appreciated during his time in office “because we have pushed them hard, put unprecedented trade pressure on China, and that will help create jobs here.”
The Chinese yuan hit a record high against the US dollar on Friday — 6.2640 to the greenback — in what analysts said could be a response to US political pressure.