Romney’s China Policy Attack Op-Ed Misrepresents Obama’s ‘Strategic Pivot’ To The Asia-Pacific

With Chinese vice president and presumed next leader Xi Jinping visiting the United States this week, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney took to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal today to attack President Obama’s China policy. Romney tries to go with the standard “GOP: Strong; Obama: weak” meme that has characterized much of the Republicans’ attacks on Obama’s foreign policy this campaign season. But as Foreign Policy’s Daniel Drezner points out, most of Romney’s op-ed is “pretty silly.”

Romney criticized Obama’s “strategic pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region he announced late last year, calling it “vastly under-resourced:”

Despite his big talk about bolstering our military position in Asia, President Obama’s actions will inevitably weaken it. He plans to cut back on naval shipbuilding, shrink our Air Force, and slash our ground forces.

While Air Force chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said recently that Air Force cut backs won’t “be easy” but “manageable,” those reductions and the overall long-term troop cuts that are part of the new military strategy don’t have anything to do with Obama’s new Asia-Pacific strategy. In fact, the Obama administration is increasing the U.S troop presence in the region and helping to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16 fleet. Moreover, Romney’s claim that Obama “plans to cut back on naval shipbuilding” is false. “The great irony,” CAP’s Lawrence Korb noted back in October, “is that the level of nine [ships], which Obama has proposed, is higher than at any time during the [George W.] Bush administration.”

Aside from the military side of Romney’s baseless attacks, Drezner points out that the former Massachusetts governor omitted the economic and diplomatic components of Obama’s pivot:

Left unmentioned were the diplomatic components (joining the East Asia Summit, interceding on the South China Sea, warming relations with Myanmar, tripartite between the U.S., Australia and India) as well as the economic components (ratifying the FTA with South Korea, signing the framework agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership). This is important, because any U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region has to be a full-spectrum approach, while Romney seems peculiarly obsessed with shipbuilding.

“To be blunt,” Drezner adds, “this China policy reads like it was composed by the Hulk. Maybe this will work in the GOP primary, but Romney and his China advisors should know better.”