Both President Obama and Mitt Romney portray China as a rival flaunting trade deals in order to steal American jobs, but what voters aren’t hearing is that the recent slowdown by the Asian juggernaut may also hurt the U.S. economy.
A new report Thursday by the bank HSBC showed that Chinese manufacturing has declined for the past 11 months as demand in Europe has waned. Many economists doubt that China will return to developing at a steady 10 percent annual clip—and that potentially has negative repercussions for American workers whose livelihoods increasingly depend on that nation’s newfound wealth.
U.S. exports to China have increased by 541 percent over the past decade. More than 800,000 American jobs last year relied on the $103.9 billion in goods and services shipped to China last year, according to government data.
“We simply have to—as a country, America simply has to grow exports by about, I think, 14.5 percent every single year,” U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said in a Washington speech last week. “The thing about China is that there’s a love affair with American goods, products and services.”
With that in mind, here are other ways that Americans have profited from China’s meteoric rise:
* China holds $1.15 trillion of the roughly $16 trillion total in federal debt, enabling deficit-popping tax cuts and government expenditures on social programs and the military.
* Nearly 160,000 Chinese students attended American universities last year, a 398 percent increase over the past 15 years, according to the Institute of International Education.
* Chinese firms invested more than $4.5 billion directly into the United States in each of the previous two years, through either mergers or opening new factories, according to the Rhodium Group.
* More than 1 million Chinese tourists came to the United States last year—each spending an average of about $6,500. The Commerce Department estimates 3.25 million Chinese will visit in 2016.
The surge in trade—among other parts of the Chinese economy— helped fuel the American recovery from the Great Recession. But it’s “unrealistic,” said Kenneth Jarrett, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, to expect that pace to continue as Chinese corporate profits decelerate and property values drop 1.19 percent over the past 12 months according to government reports this week.
“They actually want to slow down economic growth because they recognize that they can’t sustain the double-digit growth that they’ve enjoyed for so long without serious consequences,” Jarrett said.