The Daily Beast
By Zachary Karabell
February 15, 2012
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you get the following: the next leader of China, a nation of 1.3 billion people vying to supplant the United States as the world’s largest economy, flies to America on a goodwill tour and goes to…a farm in Iowa. Yes, Vice President Xi Jinping will spend the evening in Muscatine, Iowa, in the Victorian farmhouse he briefly lived in more than a quarter century ago, when he was an official from the Chinese province of Hebei sent to learn Iowa’s agricultural innovations and bring them back to a China that was then struggling to increase crop yields.
Hardly the familiar stuff of great power politics, yet it’s the most dramatic gesture imaginable, and one that says legions about the true nature of the evolving economic relationship between China and the United States. That relationship is framed in politics as fraught and problematic, even threatening to the U.S. power. But Xi’s visit, not just to Iowa but also to Washington and ending in California, underscores that it is a relationship of immense mutual benefit and deep mutual dependency.
As the American campaign season heats up, so too does the rhetoric that the American economy is being fatally undermined by China and its unfair practices, its undervalued currency, and its closed system. Anti-China policies have become a key element of Mitt Romney’s platform, as he asserts his intention to confront the Chinese and stop them from chronic cheating. China in Michigan or Ohio is pure electoral red meat: the decline of manufacturing jobs in those states is seen as directly tied to Chinese competition.