China: The Root of all Evil?

By Cindy Li, BASC Research Assistant

With nearly one out of every ten Americans jobless, election campaigns have been buzzing with mentions of record-high unemployment and the “failed” stimulus plan. But of course, merely quoting the unemployment rate is no longer enough to incite anger and frustration from voters. The American people want answers. It used to be that fingers were pointed at the greedy investment bankers with their undeserved bonuses, but this year’s elections have shifted the spotlight to China.

As David Chen noted in a recent New York Times article at least 29 candidates have endorsed advertisements that attack opponents for being too sympathetic to China (watch a sample of these anti-China ads here). Videos range from a high-budget ad depicting an evil Chinese professor in a futuristic classroom chuckling villainously about the collapse of the US, to simple ads with cliché images of Chairman Mao looking approvingly towards a field of wind turbines while an authoritative voice accuses a candidate of fighting for jobs in China at the expense of American workers. As Democrat Joe Sestak’s attack of Pat Toomey demonstrates, being a former Wall Street executive isn’t why we shouldn’t vote for Toomey; rather, it’s that he moved from Wall Street to work in China.

So does this mean candidates have already forgotten about the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the ensuing credit crunch, and instead believe that China (and of course, those China-sympathizing politicians) are to blame for America’s continued economic woes? No, alas campaign ads do not change the biting reality of economics. Rather, they reflect voters’ biggest concerns. The American people want hope. The continued increase in unemployment in the first half of 2010, even with the $787 billion stimulus package and significant regulatory changes, raises concerns that the American economy may never be restored to its previous glory. Naturally, the politician who can provide the solution will win the heart of his or her district. And of course, pointing at an external enemy is much more popular than telling voters to accept that the effects of the financial crisis will take more than a couple of years to ripple through the economy. Until then, political campaign ads will likely continue to rely on blaming over-paid CEOs and Chinese manufacturers for all our problems.

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