(Reuters) - China came under fire on Tuesday from Democratic presidential candidates who debated in Chicago before an audience consisting largely of organized labor.
In the debate, seven Democratic hopefuls for the White House described China variously as a leading competitor, a leading U.S. creditor, an abuser of human rights, an exporter of dangerous products and a potential military adversary for the coming decades.
Following are replies from each of the candidates when asked: “Which do you think (China) is, ally or adversary?”
* NEW MEXICO GOV. BILL RICHARDSON “China is a strategic competitor. And we’ve got to be tougher on China when it comes to human rights and trade. We’ve got to say to China: you’ve got to stop fooling around with currency; you’ve got to find ways to be more sensitive to your workers; you’ve got to do more, China, in the area of human rights around the world, like put pressure on the Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur.”
* ILLINOIS SEN. BARACK OBAMA “China is a competitor, but they don’t have to be an enemy as long as we understand that they are going to be negotiating aggressively for their advantage. And we’ve got to have a president in the White House who’s negotiating to make sure that we’re looking after American workers. That means enforcing our trade agreements. It means that, if they’re manipulating their currency, that we take them to the mat on this issue. It means that we are also not running up deficits and asking China to bail us out and finance it, because it’s pretty hard to have a tough negotiation when the Chinese are our bankers.”
* DELAWARE SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN “They’re neither. The fact of the matter is, though, they hold the mortgage on our house. This administration, in order to fund a war that shouldn’t be being fought and tax cuts that weren’t needed for the wealthy, we’re now in debt almost $1 trillion, a $1 trillion to China. We better end that war, cut those taxes, reduce the deficit and make sure that they no longer own the mortgage on our home.”
* NEW YORK SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON “We’ve got to get back to fiscal responsibility in order to undercut the Chinese power over us because of the debt we hold. We also have to deal with their currency manipulation. We have to have tougher standards on what they import into this country. I do not want to eat bad food from China or have my children having toys that are going to get them sick. So let’s be tough on China going forward.”
* CONNECTICUT SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD “I would say they’re competitive, but be careful. It’s getting close to adversary. Let’s not have any illusions here. China is investing a great deal of its resources in building up a military capacity. And in the 21st century, we better recognize here that while they’re competitors today, if we’re not careful here, that we could face some serious problems with China in the latter part of this century.”
* FORMER NORTH CAROLINA SEN. JOHN EDWARDS “China is a competitor, but besides all the things that have been said and needs to be — these statements are all correct about them holding American debt, about our trade deficit. No one’s mentioned human rights abuses, but there are huge human rights abuses going on in China. But the other thing I want to mention is there’s also a trade safety issue here. What about 2 million toys that have come into the United States and had to be recalled from China? How about the fact that we don’t have real country-of-origin labeling that the United States of America actually enforces so the American people know what they’re buying, where it’s coming from.”
* U.S. REP. DENNIS KUCINICH “The time to worry about China trade was really when some of my friends up here on the stage actually voted for most favored nation. Now, as president, my most favored nation is America. And I want to say, you know, there was a myth when I was growing up in Cleveland that if you dig a hole deep enough, you’ll get to China. We’re there. And we need to have a president that understands that and is ready to take a whole new direction and change trade with China.”