The Daily Twit – 10/23/12: Transitioning From U.S. Election to China Leadership Change

October 23, 2012

OK, so we’ve all had quite enough of the U.S. never-ending election, yes? The good news is that it actually does end, albeit briefly, and that end date is coming up in two weeks. The toning down of the China bashing started today with the last presidential debate.

I mentioned in the last Daily Twit that I would probably write a post on the debate, since it was supposed to be not only about foreign policy, but specifically about China, at least in part. That didn’t work out so well, and the debate was remarkably without substance. I did write a post this morning, but it was more of a complaint than a commentary. U.S. Presidential “Foreign Policy” Debate: China Fatigue?

Before I give you a few links, allow me to quote from the debate moderator as he pivoted to the discussion on China. This is difficult to believe, so I feel more comfortable with a direct quote:

Let’s — let’s go to the next segment, because it’s a very important one. It is the rise of China and future challenges for America. I want to just begin this by asking both of you, and Mr. President, you — you go first this time.

What do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?

First, note that I’m not making this up. That is indeed a direct quote. Second, if you’re not familiar with debates of this kind, the guy who made that statement is a “journalist” and is supposed to be neutral.

So yeah, the moderator basically kicked off the China segment of the debate by blatantly questioning whether the PRC is America’s greatest security threat. Amazing, huh? The surprising part of all that, or I should say the more surprising part, was that the debate did not devolve into nasty China scare mongering. In other words, the candidates did not take the bait dangled in front of them by the crappy moderator.

Right. Some links:

Asia Society: Why Obama-Romney Anti-China Rhetoric Will End (After the Election) — Interview with Richard Solomon, who discusses the usual cycles that U.S. presidents go through with respect to China policy.

Business Insider: Romney Can’t Afford To Do Much More China-Bashing — My impression of the debate was different, as I saw it as a toned down version of the campaign. The warning put forward in this article, therefore, is unnecessary.

Wall Street Journal: Experts React: Obama, Romney ‘Debate’ China — The usual round-up of expert opinions from the folks at WSJ.

Associated Press: Obama, Romney say China needs to play by the rules — The main thrust of this article is that the debate was less about foreign policy than domestic issues. With respect to China, that meant talking less about bilateral issues and more about what the U.S. needs to do with its own economic policy to better compete with the PRC.

Reuters: U.S. candidates pass over tough China questions in final debate — Similar to the AP article, describing the China segment of the debate as little more than an excuse to discuss domestic policy.

China Law & Policy: China & the Presidential Debate — Elizabeth Lynch wasn’t thrilled with the debate either, but she does manage to review the China parts without sarcasm or snark, which is more than I can say for myself.

New York Times: Pressing Issues in Asia Get Scant Attention in Debate — Mark McDonald pretty much agrees with the guys linked to above, although he also mentions that North Korea was almost completely ignored. Hard to believe.

And now for something completely different.

So as the presidential election in the U.S. winds down, you’re going to start seeing the media ramp up their coverage of China’s legislative sessions, the Party Congress, and a whole bunch of rumor mongering. Should be fun. Here’s a taste of what to expect, from Reuters:

Reuters: China hints at reform by dropping Mao wording — Certain high-level official proclamations in China include formulaic language, and when those formulas are altered, it’s a huge deal. Removing “Mao Zedong Thought” is significant and signals . . . something. Probably either future reforms, or maybe the image of a reformist leadership, or perhaps just a push back against the Bo Xilai crew. Either way, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to speculate.

A couple other things:

Business Insider: Consumption 10 years firstly contributes more to economic growth than investment — OK, ignore the Chinglish headline. That was supposed to say that consumption in China is finally outpacing investment. If that is indeed the case (big if) and is sustainable, this is a huge win for the “rebalancing” crowd. Getting consumption up is the solution to several things, arguably even the trade imbalance (you remember Y = C + I + G + (X – M), right?).

Bloomberg: China Bans Foreign Ships From Rivers as Local Operators Struggle — This is a strange story of protectionism that I need to look into more. My first question is whether any of this is/was covered by WTO commitments.

Atlantic: A Taste of Mob Rule in China — Damien Ma talks about the anti-Japanese protests and government control. He also tells the story of how he was, well, almost kidnapped. A personal, scary read.