By Edward Luce, March 11, 2012 —
China-bashing was surely one reason why Mitt Romney was able to scrape a cliffhanger victory in Ohio last week and thus retain his frontrunner status. It is a line to which he will probably resort again and again. Just as deindustrialised Ohio will once more prove a pivotal swing state in the US election, so China will feature increasingly as a bone of contention in the build-up to November. “China steals our designs and our patents and our knowhow,” Mr Romney told Ohioans. “They have walked all over him [Barack Obama]. If I am president that is going to end.”
Conventional wisdom tells us that China-bashing always occurs in even-numbered years and recedes during odd ones – US elections always being even. With an electorate that prematurely believes China is already the largest economy in the world, American politicians reflect that anguish on the hustings. When it comes to governing, however, they quickly grasp that it makes little sense to provoke trade war with the country’s largest creditor. “This year will be no different,” goes the refrain both from US pundits and foreign observers. “Elections are America’s way of letting off steam”. . . .