WASHINGTON -- In an election that may be decided on the strength of the American economy, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are looking to China to score political points as they compete for political support from working-class voters.
But both candidates also are taking some heat about their dealings with the communist superpower.
The White House on Monday filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Chinese subsidies to its auto and auto parts industry, the latest in a series of actions dating back to 2009 to protest what U.S. manufacturers say are the unfair advantages China gives its own industries.
The move came four days after Romney launched an advertising campaign accusing the president of allowing American manufacturing jobs to be lost to the Asian power.
At a campaign stop in Cincinnati, Obama charged that Romney made money from companies that outsourced jobs to China while running the private equity firm Bain Capital.
"You can't stand up to China when all you've done is send them our jobs," Obama said. "You can talk a good game. But I like to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. And my experience has been waking up every single day doing everything I can to make sure that American workers get a fair shot in the global economy."
Romney shot back in a statement accusing Obama of ignoring China for too long.
"Campaign-season trade cases may sound good on the
Over the weekend, he ran an advertisement across eight swing states accusing Obama of failing to crack down on China's behavior. And in his weekly podcast, Romney said that "in 2008, candidate Obama promised to take China 'to the mat.' But since then, he's let China run all over us."
Obama countered with a TV spot focused on Romney's past relationship with China. While Romney headed Bain Capital in the 1990s, the firm invested in several companies that operated in China. The Romney campaign has insisted that the Chinese-based factories did not supplant U.S. manufacturing jobs.