News / Asia

Economy Overshadows Debate on Sino-US Relations

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012. U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
Sino-American relations loom large over the U.S. presidency, drawing interest and concern from both the candidates vying for the White House and Chinese-American voters.

Throughout the campaign, the candidates have taken turns criticizing China’s trade practices and frequent disregard for intellectual property rights, casting the Asian powerhouse as the global competitor the United States must beat.

Deborah Wang, a Chinese-American voter, watched this week’s debate concerned that President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, would simplify America’s complex relationship with China into what she called a “caricature.”

“I think the campaigns do it because China is an easy target because a lot of Americans don’t understand how complex the situation is. They are very frustrated with the economy at home,” said Wang, who lives in the strategically important state of Ohio.

“It’s very, very easy to point to an external target and blame it on that, and just say ‘I’m going to stand up to this big mean nasty foreign power’ and somehow this is going to ameliorate them. I think it’s disingenuous,” she said.

Growing influence

Wang is among the increasingly important electorate of Asian-Americans - one of the fastest growing populations in the United States and, according to a new survey, one of the most undecided voting blocs in the country.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, who helped conduct the National Asian American Survey, said these voters could make a difference in the November election.

"We found in our most recent data that we collected through the middle of October, more than a quarter of Asian American voters were undecided," he said.  "That's about three times higher than the national average."

Ramakrishnan said those who have decided tend to favor the Democratic Party over the Republican Party. Social issues and the economy help inform the votes, he said, but political rhetoric does, too.

"There is a lot of concern in the Asian American community in terms of how U.S. foreign policy is being talked about," he said. "Is it being talked about in a nuanced and complicated way? Or is it being used in a shorthand way that might inflame tensions, not just toward China, but towards Chinese-Americans."

Complex relations

Wang, who is planning to vote for President Obama, said she was pleasantly surprised by Romney’s handling of the China issue during the debate.

"For a second there, I actually felt Romney was making a lot more sense, at least when he started out saying China wants stability in the world," she said. "They don't want war. They want a stable market to which they can export their products. I was nodding my head. I was like yup, that's definitely what China wants."

She was a little less impressed when Romney repeated his pledge to label China a “currency manipulator” to enable the U.S. to apply tariffs where he said China is “taking jobs” from Americans.

“They sort of glossed over the feasibility of making China value its currency to our liking, and they didn’t really go into how consumer good prices would rise in the States if either Chinese goods prices would rise or if we would be forced to consuming more domestically or from other more expensive countries,” she said.

The Obama administration has encouraged China to practice fair trade policies but refrained from accusing the country of manipulating its currency.

Another Chinese-American voter, Raymond Lee, said he worries more about creating jobs and lowering the U.S. debt than how Asian-Americans are perceived because of the so-called China-bashing. The Ohio resident said he supports Romney because he understands the challenges faced by U.S. businesses.

"Similar to Mitt, or Governor Romney, I've seen a lot of different situations advising clients, advising business," said Lee, another Ohio resident.  "I had to live through making payroll … We worry about day to day struggles of government regulation. We live with it right now."

Lee, the chief executive officer of a juice company, started humbly, growing up in a poor neighborhood where he says he suffered discrimination from both blacks and whites because he was Asian. He opposes some Obama-administration programs that offer social and education assistance, which Lee said people should find a way to pay for themselves, like he did.

President Obama “talks about supporting today's youth, and today's youth is going to have to figure a way to pay back all this debt. That's the legacy that's going to be left behind,” Lee said. “I find it interesting that Governor Romney has not attacked him harder about supporting the youth and college education.”

It’s the Obama administration’s investment in social services that appeals to voters like Wang, who helps Asian immigrants and refugees in the Cleveland area.

Looking inward

During the debate, the president argued that over the long term, the United States must invest at home in order to compete with China.

"If we don't have the best education system in the world, if we don't continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to - to create great businesses here in the United States, that's how we lose the competition," Obama said.

The president’s answer was typical of several in Monday night's debate, where questions on foreign policy instead prompted answers on domestic issues. The candidates made no mention of China’s human rights record and only briefly referred to its growing military power, focusing instead on what surveys say is the primary concern of Asian-Americans and all other American voters – the U.S. economy.

Watch the entire third U.S. presidential debate:
Watch the Entire 3rd U.S. Presidential Debatei
|| 0:00:00
October 21, 2012 9:21 PM
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney faced off on October 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. This was the third of three nationally televised debates.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs