China bristles at attacks from Obama, Romney during debate

China on Wednesday showed its annoyance with both President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney over statements made about its economic practices during Tuesday’s second presidential debate.

During the encounter, Romney again vowed to declare China a “currency manipulator” and pledged to prosecute Chinese unfair trade practices if he were to be elected president. 

Obama touted tariffs he had imposed on Chinese tires and bragged about taking Beijing more often to the World Trade Organization during his administration than did President George W. Bush.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denied Wednesday that China is keeping the value of its currency low in order to boost exports and make imports more expensive.

"We hope the U.S. Republican and Democratic candidates will get rid of the impact of election politics and do more things conducive to China-U.S. mutual trust and cooperation," he said.

The government news agency Xinhua led its coverage of the second of Obama and Romney's debates by saying that the face-off had "unsurprisingly, turned into a vanity fair for China-bashers competing to flex their muscles on China, offering up talking points that have less to do with China than with the continued competitiveness of the world superpower.”

The report warns that the results of the candidates' "tough talk going into effect would be disastrous."

“Therefore, the presidential candidates should be mindful of going too far in bashing China, if they feel they must do so in order to win votes, because the specificity of their promises will leave them few options but to follow through,” the article adds.

Obama and Romney's campaigns have traded attacks over U.S. trade ties with China, as both candidates seek to sway undecided voters in swing states with strong manufacturing bases. 

Romney has charged Obama with failing to "stand up to" unfair trade practices he says cost American workers jobs, pointing to the Treasury Department's decision not to label China a currency manipulator.

Obama has refused to name China a “currency manipulator” officially, despite saying the yuan is undervalued and pressing China to allow its value to rise. The designation carries no actual penalties and could provoke unilateral retaliation by China. House Republicans, meanwhile, have blocked a Senate bill that would allow the U.S. to use countervailing duties against China due to the value of its currency. 

But the Obama team has hit back, saying that during Romney's tenure at private-equity firm Bain Capital he profited from the outsourcing of jobs to China.

Obama has also touted trade cases the administration has filed against China before the World Trade Organization and tariffs imposed on imported Chinese tires at the urging of the United Steelworkers. 

While the action saved some 1,000 jobs including in swing state Ohio, the action is estimated to have cost consumers billions in the form of higher tire prices, according to an April Peterson Institute report. Supporters of the tariffs dispute those findings however.

During last night's debate, Obama lobbed a new charge, accusing Romney of currently investing in companies that help Beijing spy on its own citizens.

Prior to the debate, in an opinion piece in Xinhua, writer Liu Chang said of both Romney and Obama that “these chameleonic politicians should not always expect that the wounds they have inflicted to the China-U.S. ties would heal automatically.”

“It is hoped that whoever will serve as the next U.S. president would cease to blame China for his country's domestic problems and stop being suspicious of China's sincerity to pursue peaceful development,” Liu wrote.