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China new target in campaign ads

With many Americans seized by anxiety about the country's economic decline, candidates from both political parties have suddenly found a new villain: China.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2010 00:44 IST

With many Americans seized by anxiety about the country's economic decline, candidates from both political parties have suddenly found a new villain: China.

From the marquee battle between Senator Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina in California to the House contests in rural New York, Democrats and Republicans are blaming one another for allowing export of jobs to its economic rival.

In the past week or so, at least 29 candidates have unveiled advertisements suggesting that their opponents have been too sympathetic to China and, as a result, Americans have suffered.

The ads are striking not only in their volume but also in their pointed language.

One ad for an Ohio congressman, Zack Space, accuses his Republican opponent, Bob Gibbs, of supporting free-trade policies that sent Ohioans' jobs to China. As a giant dragon appears on the screen, the narrator sarcastically thanks the Republican: "As they say in China, xie xie Mr. Gibbs!"

And on Wednesday, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, began showing an ad that wove pictures of Chinese factory workers with criticism that Republican Sharron Angle was "a foreign worker's best friend" for supporting corporate tax breaks that led to outsourcing to China and India.

The barrage of ads is occurring as politicians are struggling to address voters' most pressing and stubborn concern: the lack of jobs.

"China is a really easy scapegoat," said Erika Franklin Fowler, a political science professor at Wesleyan University who is director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising.

Polls show that not only are Americans increasingly worried that the US will have a lesser role in the years ahead; they are more and more convinced that China will dominate.

The attacks are occurring as trade tensions continue and the US is pressuring China to allow its currency to rise in value, a central topic under discussion at the International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington this weekend.

Robert A. Kapp, a former president of the US-China Business Council, said he had never seen China used as such an obvious punching bag.

"To bring one country into the crosshairs in so many districts, at such a late stage of the campaign, represents something new and a calculated gamble," he said. "I find it deplorable. I find it demeaning."