BEIJING // Winston Lord, President Richard Nixon’s right-hand man on his historic trip to China in 1972, famously described Sino-US relations as being “sweet and sour”. This is as true today as it was then.
Whoever wins the White House is already aware that China has the potential to dominate US foreign policy during the next four years.
Mr Obama described China as “an adversary”, while Mr Romney vowed to declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office.
Aside from trade, China is working to increase its military reach though the development of longer-range missiles, an aircraft carrier, and carrier-based fighter jets.
Beijing has been angered by Mr Obama’s decision to make the Pacific the focus of US naval defence.
That strategic decision is currently most relevant to the disputes between China and its neighbours over the ownership of islands in the South and East China Seas. The US is legally obliged to come to the aid of several of these countries if hostilities break out with China.
There are other sources of friction. The US frets about cyber attacks emanating from China and the theft of its intellectual property, while Beijing wants greater access to US markets and technology.