One of the few things on which President Obama and Mitt Romney appear to agree is that it’s time for the United States to get tough with China, America’s number two trading partner.
They’ve got it wrong. America needs to better understand China, engage with China’s people and leaders, align its interests with China, negotiate quietly behind the scenes, and work to make China its partner in prosperity. Calling the Chinese “cheaters” serves no useful purpose. Protectionism would be a mistake.
Yes, China needs to play by the rules. That’s why we have rules. When the U.S. has a complaint—and there are many legitimate things to complain about—there are protocols and procedures for settling such disputes. And as President Obama admitted in the final presidential debate, the U.S. has been very successful in pursuing and prosecuting trade grievances.
But the relationship is bigger than that. While China and India may pose an economic threat to the unprepared, they also represent one of the greatest economic opportunities America will ever see.