PARIS - In the United States, "China bashing" is in full swing. Denigrating China has been a mainstay of the American presidential campaign, in a time of economic one-upmanship between Washington and Beijing.
During the final televised debate, devoted to foreign policy, Republican candidate Mitt Romney once again accused Beijing of manipulating its currency and violating trade rules - behavior that has resulted in layoffs and bankruptcies in the world's top economic power.
“They're stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods," said Mr. Romney, citing as an example one American manufacturer whose products were counterfeited in China and sold on the American market.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, after sporting a French striped sailor top to promote “Made in France” products, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, spoke of catastrophic consequences after China's integration into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.
"China was allowed to enter the WTO without anything in exchange," he proclaimed, deploring the hundreds of thousands of French people who have lost their jobs because of "unfair competition" and because of "scandalous unfair globalization."
There is surely some truth in these allegations, notably in regards to the need to better protect intellectual property and the need for China and Japan to open up their markets.
Populism and patriotism
Still, populist rhetoric and electoral arguments are not enough to hide a few truths about the West's responsibilities. Globalization has certainly not only benefited the emerging economies of Asia, of which China is at the forefront, it has allowed European (and American) companies to export to the most dynamic markets in the world.
In his crusade for economic patriotism, Montebourg also brought up the free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and South Korea, which he says allowed automobile manufacturers to strengthen their position on the European continent.
However, as the European Commission reminded him, the agreement allowed the EU to increase its exports to South Korea by 20%. Also, it underlined that "a large part of Kia and Hyundai cars are produced in Europe."
Is it wise for a crisis-ridden Europe to fight Asian investors, when those same investors are the ones creating the jobs? The euro zone wants to reindustrialize; however, as the Robert-Schuman Foundation highlighted, it is a "victim of political unwillingness to reorganize Europe's economy, in particular national industry," in a way that would see them become more integrated yet more diverse. That's where the necessity lies - in "inventing new political, economic and industrial tools." Could this signify a new battle for Mr. Montebourg?
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