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Etch A Sketching on China

Associated Press

Mitt Romney tends to stick to vague generalities when it comes to foreign policy, but that doesn't stop him from slamming China with surprising frequency.

In his second television ad of the general election, the Republican vows to "stand up to China" on his very first day in office, and in his interview with Mark Halperin this week, Romney mentioned China eight times. ("No one's talking about the impact of China cheating in this country," he said.)

Jon Huntsman, a Romney supporter and the former U.S. ambassador to China, was unimpressed with Romney's China-bashing when he was a candidate, but yesterday, Huntsman told CNN the public need not be concerned -- because Romney doesn't believe his own rhetoric.

Huntsman was reminded of his quotes from a few months ago, when he said Romney's "doesn't quite understand" the U.S.-China relationship, adding that Romney is effectively calling for "a trade war." Asked if he still believes what he said, Huntsman responded yesterday:

"It's no surprise during a campaign season you're going to have people use China as an issue.... I think -- this is a -- this is a typical trajectory where during a campaign season you're going to talk about China in ways that you're hearing today. We've seen that election cycles gone by. Then you get in office...."

In other words, from Huntsman's perspective, there's no cause for alarm regarding Romney's irresponsible anti-China rhetoric, because Romney is simply being cynical and insincere to win votes.

This, by the way, was Huntsman offering a defense of Romney, not a criticism. It was a national television interview in which a Romney supporter effectively argued, "Vote for my guy -- he's only saying dumb things to get elected."

Incidentally, the White House also noticed Romney's swipe at China in his new ad. Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters this morning, "Despite his tough talk now, Gov. Romney wasn't always for enforcing trade laws against China.... In his book, Gov. Romney attacked the president for standing up for American workers and businesses by enforcing trade law against China, even calling it 'bad for the nation and our workers.'"