China As Scapegoat In American Election Campaign Ads

(New York Times)  China Emerges as a Scapegoat in Campaign Advertisements   David W. Chen  October 10, 2010

With many Americans seized by anxiety about the country・s economic decline, candidates from both political parties have suddenly found a new villain to run against: China.

From the marquee battle between Senator Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina in California to the House contests in rural New York, Democrats and Republicans are blaming one another for allowing the export of jobs to its economic rival.

In the past week or so, at least 29 candidates have unveiled advertisements suggesting that their opponents have been too sympathetic to China and, as a result, Americans have suffered.

The ads are striking not only in their volume but also in their pointed language.

One ad for an Ohio congressman, Zack Space, accuses his Republican opponent, Bob Gibbs, of supporting free-trade policies that sent Ohioans・ jobs to China. As a giant dragon appears on the screen, the narrator sarcastically thanks the Republican: :As they say in China, xie xie Mr. Gibbs!;
In an ad featuring Chinese music and a photo of Chairman Mao, Spike Maynard, a Republican challenger in West Virginia, charges that Representative Nick Rahall supported a bill creating wind-turbine jobs in China.

And on Wednesday, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, began showing an ad that wove pictures of Chinese factory workers with criticism that Republican Sharron Angle was :a foreign worker・s best friend; for supporting corporate tax breaks that led to outsourcing to China and India.

The barrage of ads, expected to total in the tens of millions of dollars, is occurring as politicians are struggling to address voters・ most pressing and stubborn concern: the lack of jobs.

:China is a really easy scapegoat,; said Erika Franklin Fowler, a political science professor at Wesleyan University who is director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising.

Polls show that not only are Americans increasingly worried that the United States will have a lesser role in the years ahead; they are more and more convinced that China will dominate. In a Pew poll conducted in April, 41 percent of Americans said China was the world・s leading economic power, slightly more than those who named the United States.

The attacks are occurring as trade tensions continue and the United States is pressuring the Chinese government to allow its currency to rise in value, a central topic under discussion at the International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington this weekend.

The ads are so vivid and pervasive that some worry they will increase hostility toward the Chinese and complicate the already fraught relationship between the two countries.

Robert A. Kapp, a former president of the US-China Business Council, said that even though tensions had flared in the past, he had never seen China used as such an obvious punching bag for American politicians. :To bring one country into the crosshairs in so many districts, at such a late stage of the campaign, represents something new and a calculated gamble,; he said. :I find it deplorable. I find it demeaning.;

Not all of the ads are solely about China; a few mention India or Mexico. A recent ad from Mrs. Boxer accuses Ms. Fiorina, a former chief executive at Hewlett-Packard, of outsourcing thousands of jobs to :Shanghai instead of San Jose, Bangalore instead of Burbank,; and of :proudly stamping her products .Made in China.・ ;

It is no accident that Democrats, in particular, have been eying China as a line of attack. This spring, national Democrats, including the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, began to encourage candidates to highlight the issue after reviewing internal polling that suggested voters strongly favored eliminating tax breaks for companies that do business in China. The party first began emphasizing the issue in a special election for a Pennsylvania House seat in May, said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Never mind that there is hardly any consensus as to what exactly constitutes outsourcing and how many of the new overseas jobs would have stayed in American hands. The Democrats cite studies this year from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization, that assert three million jobs have been outsourced to China since 2001 because of the growing trade imbalance.

But Republicans, backed by some academics, say the number is much smaller. Indeed, Scott Kennedy, director of the Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business at Indiana University, said that most of the jobs China had added in manufacturing through foreign investment had come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, not from the United States.

Still, some Republicans clearly see the issue as potent, and they are counterattacking with ads stating that the Obama administration・s stimulus package helped to create $2 billion in wind-turbine technology jobs in China, a claim the Treasury Department and the American Wind Energy Association say is dubious.

Representative John A. Boehner, the House minority leader, in a speech Friday in Ohio, blamed President Obama and Ms. Pelosi for a :stimulus that shipped jobs overseas to China instead of creating jobs here at home.;
Evan B. Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, said that :China has sort of become a straw-man villain in this election; in a way that elicits comparisons to the sentiments toward Japan in the 1980s over car manufacturing and Mexico in the 1990s over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

While China・s growth has slowed a bit recently, its economy is still projected to surge by about 10 percent this year, continuing a remarkable three-decade streak of double-digit expansion.

:In a lot of ways it・s a code word: .Let・s be mad at China, because then the voters will connect the dots and say our manufacturing plants have been shut down because of China, and all the unfair labor practices, and throw on the fact that we・re basically selling all our debt to China,・//; Mr. Tracey said.

Even as the ads play up Americans・ unease with the threat posed by modern China, they often employ outdated and almost cliché depictions.

In a new spot for Representative Joe Sestak, who is running for the Senate in Pennsylvania, a gong clangs as a narrator says of his Republican rival, Pat Toomey: :He・s fighting for jobs X in China.;
An ad for Ryan Frazier, a Republican running for Congress in western Colorado, shows Forbidden City-style doors opening to reveal China on a world map, as the voiceover criticizes the Democratic incumbent, Ed Perlmutter, for supporting cap-and-trade legislation, which some Coloradans believe will drive more manufacturing jobs overseas.

Consultants from both parties are monitoring polling and voter reaction to gauge the effectiveness of the ads and to determine how long to continue showing them. Based on the back-and-forth between candidates on the campaign trail, the issue does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

At a Senate debate in Connecticut on Monday night between the Democrat Richard Blumenthal and the Republican Linda E. McMahon, Mr. Blumenthal repeatedly tried to raise concerns about the business practices of World Wrestling Entertainment, the company in which Ms. McMahon served as chief executive. A tense moment occurred when Mr. Blumenthal asked: Why does Ms. McMahon・s company manufacture its popular action figure toys in China, rather than here at home? She said it was not her decision, but that of the toy company, and moved on.


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Barbara Boxer (Senate, California)

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Lee Fisher (Senate, Ohio)

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Harry Reid (Senate, Nevada)

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Ted Strickland (Governor, Ohio)

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Zack Space (Congress, Ohio)

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Spike Maynard (Congress, West Virginia)

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John Yarmuth (Congress, Kentucky)

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Ryan Frazier (Congress, Colorado)

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Joe Sestak (Senate, Pennsylvania)


(Washington PostMore political ads paint China as benefiting from weak U.S. economy    John Pomfret  October 28, 2010

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It's 2030 in Beijing. A professor addresses a class of students. "Why do great nations fail?" he asks. "The Ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the United States of America."

"They all make the same mistakes, turning their back on the principles that made them great," he says, speaking in a high-tech lecture hall festooned with portraits of Mao Zedong.

"America tried to spend and tax itself out of a great recession. . . . Of course, we owned most of their debt," he says with a chuckle, then turns more serious. "So now they work for us."

The class erupts in self-satisfied snickers.

Released last week, "The Chinese Professor" is the latest and most inflammatory of a series of China-related advertisements appearing across the United States. Feeding off the nationwide anxiety about high unemployment numbers and deep worries about the country's place in the world, the ad is part of a wave of campaign publicity that casts China as benefiting from the U.S. economic slide.

More than a spasm of political season piling-on, the ads underscore a broader shift in American society toward a more fearful view of China. Inspired by China's rise and a perceived fall in the standing of the United States, the ads have historical parallels to the American reaction to Japan in the 1980s and to the Soviet threat.

"I get this sense that they're going to take over the world," said Christie Kemp, an accounting student in Farmington Hills, Mich., who used to work for a tool company that has since relocated to China. "They're just hungrier than we are. They want it more."

Polls by the Pew Global Research Center indicate that more Americans still have a generally favorable view of China (49 percent) than those who don't (36 percent). But 47 percent of respondents consider China's growing economy a bad thing and 79 percent see its modernizing military as a threat. On op-ed pages, columnists criticize China for protecting its currency, continuing to jail a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, refusing to embrace stronger sanctions against Iran and angling to obtain Western technology.

"Everybody's angry at China," said Bonnie S. Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. "It's a free-for-all right now, and there's very few people defending them."

Hollywood portrayals of China have turned darker. In the movie "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," Chinese cash is perfidious. In this past summer's "The Karate Kid," a laid-off Detroit autoworker heads to Beijing, where a Chinese bully terrorizes her son. And a remake of the 1984 cult classic "Red Dawn," about six American high school students who take on the Soviet Red Army, has the kids fighting the Chinese. (The film, which was due out this month, has not been released because its studio, MGM, is facing bankruptcy - prompting jokes about American economic impotence on blogs in China.)

"I worry about that movie," said Haipei Shue, president of the National Council of Chinese Americans, a Washington-based organization made up mostly of immigrants from mainland China. "How will the kids at my son's school look at him after they see it? And how will my son look at them? Maybe they can laugh it away, but it could be something that tips the balance."

Obama administration officials have responded to the worries about China by calling for a focus on renewal in the United States but also by toughening their tone toward Beijing.

"It is not China's fault that we went from having a budget surplus to being indebted with a trillion-dollar deficit," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview last week with the historian Michael Beschloss. "Those are decisions we made through our political system. So we have to get our own house in order."

"It is heartbreaking to think that China would be the leader in clean-energy technology because we can't get our act together," she added. "If we stand on the sidelines and just complain and try to oppose whatever China is doing . . . and don't deal with our own issues at home, I don't know what the future will hold."

China has itself partly to blame for the change in the United States' view, analysts say, because it has not delivered on the administration's expectations for a strengthened relationship. Despite intense U.S. pressure, China allowed the value of its currency to rise only about 3 percent against the dollar. And although it voted for enhanced sanctions against Iran and North Korea, its enforcement of those efforts appears weak.

In Washington, the political shift away from China has been fast, with even benign issues becoming fraught with problems when the country is involved. Last month, for example, when the Chinese manufacturer Anshan Iron and Steel announced plans to participate in the construction of a steel mill that would employ scores of Americans in Mississippi, 50 members of Congress called for an investigation.

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On the campaign trail, both Democrats and Republicans are slinging mud at China. Currently, 250 ads targeting China are being aired in just under half of the 100 competitive districts, such as the battle for the Senate seat in Pennsylvania between Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak. Sestak's ads come equipped with a gong and this line: "Pat Toomey - he's fighting for jobs . . . in China. Maybe he ought to run for Senate . . . in China."

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At a news conference last week, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias accused Republican Mark Kirk - locked in a tight race in Illinois for President Obama's old Senate seat - of "economic treason" for raising money from American businessmen based in China.

"It's not out of the norm for political ads to go looking for the straw man or the villain to generate an emotional response," said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which studies trends in political ads. That was done with Mexico in the 1990s, in ads opposing the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as with Japan in the 1980s. The problem, he noted, is that "political ads are the leading indicator of the next set of policies."

The Chinese professor ad was made for Citizens Against Government Waste, an advocacy group that grew out of the Reagan administration's efforts to cut the federal budget.

Thomas Schatz, the group's president, stood by the ad and said it wasn't xenophobic. The ad takes aim at the Obama administration's stimulus program, but like the United States, China primed its economy with a massive stimulus package, too. "The target isn't China - it's us," he said.


(South China Morning Post)  China-bashing may end as US faces gridlock    Kristin Jones   October 4, 2010

The fervent China-bashing that took hold during the United States campaign season may die down now that midterm elections have ended. But with bipartisan frustration in the US with China's economic policies and suspicion about its military build-up, it is unlikely that the wave of Republican wins will bring big changes in policy.

Republicans took sweeping control of the House in Tuesday's midterm elections, while Democrats retained a slender grip on the Senate.

China became a popular cudgel on the campaign trail, as both Democrats and Republican candidates accused their opponents of supporting trade policies that favoured Chinese jobs.

But the ads did not succeed. In Pennsylvania, congressman Joe Sestak, a Democrat, accused his opponent Pat Toomey, a free-trade advocate, of "fighting for jobs. In China." Toomey won the race. In West Virginia, Democrat Spike Maynard failed in his bid to unseat congressman Nick Rahall, whom he attacked for outsourcing jobs in an ad that played Chinese music and flashed a picture of Chairman Mao Zedong .

The tone of the discussion on China will improve, says Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on US-China Relations.

"The 30-second soundbite blaming China for America's economic woes should disappear," Orlins says, "and beginning January 20 the newly-elected House and Senate should address the real issues in the US-China relationship, namely co-operation on North Korea, Iran, terrorism and climate change."

But with a divided Congress and a Democrat in the White House, it is unclear what will actually be accomplished in terms of legislation that might affect China, says Richard Bush, a former US intelligence officer and the director for Northeast Asian policy studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "There's going to be a lot of gridlock, and that applies to both domestic policy and foreign policy," Bush said.

Republicans, traditionally pro-business, have historically been friendly to China on trade issues. "The change ... may shift the balance of power in the direction of free trade and away from legislating solutions to economic problems," Bush says. But some analysts have seen a shift in Republicans' views towards trade with China that may make them less likely to resist Democrats' initiatives.

"There are no shortages of Republican candidates who have a very strong pro-trade position, who nonetheless have been clear that their plan is to be fairly tough on China," says Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council.

The difference, he says, is an erosion of support for policies favourable to trading with China from their traditional base, the American business community.

Tao Wenzhao, a senior research fellow with the Institute of American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said what worried him most was the Republicans' traditional pro-Taiwan orientation as many lawmakers have been calling for upgrading ties with the island.

But on trade, the administration would put less stress on the yuan while other issues - such as the opening of China's markets and the protection of state-owned enterprises - would be prioritised, Tao said.