Perhaps it is too much to expect them to stop, but the dueling comments on China by President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney cannot help long-term relations with that crucial country.
We can hope that Chinese understanding of the U.S. political process is sophisticated enough that they will not let the candidates' comments influence their policy toward America.
There is no question that the Chinese sometimes play dirty in the commercial realm. They see competition with their rivals for markets and resources as comparable to NFL receivers and defenders in the end zone trying to land a "Hail Mary pass." An elbow here, a knee there and, specifically, currency exchange rate manipulation are applied, depending on what the traffic will bear. The rules -- including those of the World Trade Organization -- are more guidelines than enforced prescriptions. Nonetheless, the United States is correct to throw the red flag when it believes China is in violation.
That said, the fact that Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are trying to score points on each other over China policy is unhelpful. The main reason is that China, just like the United States, is going through a leadership change at the top, a passing of the baton from President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to their successors. Xi Jinping seems still set to be the next president, although his unexplained disappearance for a couple of weeks clouds the process a bit.
Regardless, it behooves U.S. leaders to lay off while China sorts out who will be in charge, probably for the next 10 years. It would be indiscreet to note also that the United States owes China about $1.7 trillion, or that the Chinese and American economies are also linked through trade and investment.
America's candidates should focus on the state of the U.S. economy, and especially jobs. The country has not only 12.5 million unemployed, but also tough family situations out there, like single parents with children working two jobs to make ends meet.
The two countries should choose their leaders, then get on with the task of smoothing out the relationship. To do otherwise is irresponsible.