John McCain and Barack Obama both released policy statements on China this week via the American Chamber of Commerce in China. The Lowy Institute blog has posted an article contrasts the candidates policies, and how Australia (and the rest of the world) might be affected on issues of defense, politics, economics and climate change.

“First on security issues, the two statements are quite different. Strikingly, Obama does not once refer to China’s military build-up (McCain mentions it twice), instead stressing the importance of reducing tensions in North-East Asia, building on improved relations across the Taiwan Strait, and enhancing military-to-military and non-traditional security cooperation with China. Can we read into this that an Obama Administration would seek to downplay the ‘military threat’ perspective of China’s rise in the interests of greater stability? Curiously, McCain does not mention Taiwan at all.

“On political matters, McCain again appears the more Hawkish of the two, highlighting human rights concerns and China’s support for ‘Pariah states’, while declaring China’s domestic politics to be ‘a legitimate subject of international concern’. Obama, too, refers to these issues, though he does so in a less pejorative tone than does McCain, and not until near the end of his much longer statement. Interestingly, Obama does not demand that China become a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in the international system – a tired Washington mantra, the meaning and implications of which remain elusive. McCain mentions it twice.

“In regards to the multitude of economic issues that bedevil the relationship, it is Obama who flags the more aggressive approach. Obama’s statement exhorts China to move away from export-oriented growth to an economic growth model based on greater domestic consumption (which would benefit the US current account balance), to adhere to global norms on trade, investment and intellectual property protection, and to increase the value of its currency. Obama concedes, at least, that the US must do more to address its own economic imbalances. McCain mentions these issues in passing but focuses more attention on expanding free trade, engaging in a vigorous defence of the benefits of trade to America and pledging to improve structural adjustment and training for displaced US workers.”

Interestingly, the piece suggests that the most significant issue at play is climate change.

Read the full post here.

Peter Fray

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