World / US and Canada

American VP candidates' views on China not widely known

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily) Updated: 2016-10-06 07:23

While US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have used China as a bogeyman in campaign speeches, their running mates - Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine - are much less known when it comes to views about China.

Pence and Kaine squared off in Virginia on Tuesday night in the only vice-presidential debate of the campaign.

The two governors presented themselves as character witnesses for their running mates while also getting in jabs at the top of each others' tickets that at times overran attempts by the moderator to focus on the questions being asked.

Kaine was the more aggressive debater, repeatedly asking Pence to defend the actions of the Republican presidential nominee. Pence mostly demurred.

A probe of their track records as governors and congressmen shows that neither has adopted a radical position regarding China.

The US China Business Council, an organization that represents US companies investing and trading in China, described Pence's voting record on trade during his 12 years as a congressman as favorable.

Back in 2001, Pence, in his first year as a member of the House of Representatives, spoke in favor of extending China's normal trade relations status an additional year, citing the benefits of trade with China.

In 2010, Pence joined a minority of Republicans who opposed a bill to impose tariffs on countries accused of manipulating their exchange rates for trade advantage. After Pence was selected as Trump's running mate, the US Chamber of Commerce said, "It's hard to find a better advocate for trade than Governor Mike Pence".

Pence, however, has recently moderated his previous support for trade, including questioning the wisdom of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement pending between the US and 11 Pacific Rim nations, excluding China.

In May last year, Pence led a trade mission from his state, Indiana, to China.

In May this year, he called for an investigation into Pittsburgh-based US Steel's allegations of international trade law violations by China. He claimed that unfair trade practices were hurting Indiana's steel industry.

On the Democratic side, the Spanish-speaking Kaine has focused primarily on Latin America and the Middle East. His views on trade have been described by the USCBC report as "consistently positive, although measured". Kaine did not declare a position on the TPP until he announced his opposition after being selected as Clinton's running mate.

His few comments regarding China also have been described by the USCBC report as "balanced, highlighting both the cooperation and tension in the relationship".

In 2015, Kaine listed China as one that needs to be "skillfully challenged" and saying "that sometimes means cooperate, sometimes compete, sometimes confront".

In February, Kaine issued a statement on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in which he said China has the most leverage and should use it.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

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