Under a consensus on the importance and outlines of the US-China relationship, business-friendly Republicans have focused on security concerns and supported free trade. Democrats, backed by organized labor, have emphasized more diplomacy and called for fair trade. In the Nov. 2 election for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 37 of the 100 seats in the Senate, polls show Republicans appear poised to capture the majority in the House and to make strong gains in the Senate.
China has not emerged as a specific campaign issue, but in an election fought over Democratic US President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy and high unemployment, lawmakers of both parties will be taking swipes against Chinese policies. In the last official business before they broke for the campaign, the House raised China’s ire by passing, by a vote of 348-79, a law that would treat an undervalued Chinese currency as an unlawful subsidy that could be remedied by duties on selected Chinese goods.
Ninety-nine Republicans joined 249 Democrats to pass the bill, while five Democrats and 74 Republicans voted no. A Republican party statement accompanying the vote voiced skepticism about pressuring China on the currency, but gave Beijing no quarter on other trade issues. “We all believe that there are more important priorities in our trading relationship, and bigger barriers to US exports than China’s undervalued currency,” the Republicans said. “We are frustrated by China’s continued bad faith and aggressive pursuit of protectionist policies that jeopardize our economic relationship,” they said.