I’ve been following both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions lately. Despite all the drama — all the comebacks, the patriotism, the decline, etc. — I find that the economy links them all.
And during the conventions, the economic relationship with China could not have been emphasized more.
The U.S. wants to jump from “Made in China” to “Made in U.S.A.” Let’s put aside the breadth of that gap for a moment and focus on what influence this move would have on both our countries.
I started to dig up some statistics. China’s real GDP growth shows a down-up-down trend from 1992 to 2010 that seems to relate to whether Republicans or Democrats are running the White House. From 1992 to 1999, when the U.S. was under the Clinton Administration, China’s real GDP growth declined from 14.2 percent to 7.6 percent; in 2000 when the Bush Administration took over, the rate jumped up to 8.4 percent and climbed up to the same level as in 1992. And in 2008 when President Barack Obama was elected, China’s real GDP growth dropped suddenly to almost the 1999 low point and has been stagnating around 10 percent.
At first glance, you might think it’s just a coincidence. But if you scrutinize the different visions and policies of the two parties, it’s really not that crazy.
In 2009, China became the No.1 exporter and in the following year, the No.1 manufacturer. China’s economy growth relies heavily on the secondary sector of the economy, or the industrial sector, which includes production and construction. That sector contributes to about 46-52.2 percent of the GDP in the past two decades.
Living in the U.S., it’s very hard to find something that isn’t printed with the words “Made in China.” I sometimes joke about coming from a country where everything is made when introducing myself.
Under such circumstances, both the Democratic and Republican parties strive to win the hearts of voters by promising to bring jobs back from China. Claiming is one thing and practicing is another.
The Democrats uphold domestic manufacturing, human rights, environmental issues and so on. The Obama Administration seems to be more confident in bringing manufacturing jobs back from China. They have pushed the revitalization of the American automobile industry. As shown by Ford Motor Company’s determination to bring 12,000 jobs from China and Mexico to the U.S. last October, the efforts to save General Motors, and China’s speedy salary raise based on Boston Consulting Group’s research last year, outsourcing jobs to China may be turning around.
On the other side, Republicans might find it very hard to realize such a claim if Mitt Romney is elected. After all, Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Romney, has benefited from huge investments in companies that outsourced jobs to China, according to a Washington Post report in June and a follow-up report in Mother Jones. Will a businessman be more likely to kiss fat checks goodbye? Probably not.
So, whether Obama gets elected for a second term seems to be even more crucial to the Chinese economy. If Obama is re-elected, as promised, he’ll bring jobs back and China will suffer. Lots of Chinese people will lose jobs. Will China agree?
If that’s the case, will China affect this election? Needless to say, the big corporations behind the Republican Party will be more likely to be prosperous if Romney gets elected.
As a Chinese citizen, I don’t want to see my people suffering from unemployment. But I don’t want my people to depend solely on the job opportunities others give. The ability to deal with potential economic crises is one reason, but dignity matters more.
I don’t want a motherland with a speedy economy that disregards environmental costs. I don’t want 1.4 billion people to have to rely on another nation’s election results. I want to belong to a nation with dignity, a country with responsibility, a bilateral relationship that moves both countries forward.
Bingxin “Sophia” Huang is a master’s student in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism who is studying abroad at the University of Leipzig this semester. Let her know what you think at email@example.com.