U.S.-China tensions are rising as both countries prepare for a rare simultaneous transition of power this autumn.China issues have come to the fore in the American campaign, as Obama responded to criticisms of being “soft” on China with a request that the WTO declare China’s auto industry to be illegally subsidized. Meanwhile, Chinese leaders are stoking anti-Americanism to rally support, standing strong on claims in territorial disputes and displaying increasing hostility toward American involvement in them.As the The Wall Street Journal notes, leaders in both countries have incentives to be tough:
Polls show little downside in the U.S. to beating up on Beijing. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in June found that 62% saw China as an adversary; just 25% saw it as an ally. And the advantages are clear for Republicans: A Bloomberg poll in June showed 40% of voters were dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s China trade policies while only 32% were satisfied.Similarly for the Chinese, feelings of national pride among the masses provide leaders with a grass-roots stamp of approval for their worldly ambitions. China’s leaders can point to restlessness among its people or its military in pressing their claims abroad—with the Americans, Japanese or others.
During the political transition, both the Chinese and the Americans want to show that they are in control. The sniping isn’t likely to cool down until winter.