Obama accuses Romney of investing in Chinese spy companies

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Obama didn't expand the assertion further, but The New York Times reported in March that Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, invested in Uniview Technologies, which makes surveillance equipment for the Chinese government. The company makes cameras and software to help the Chinese police monitor the public.

According to the report, Romney's family has a blind trust that owns a stake in the Bain fund that purchased Uniview last December. Romney has had no role in the day-to-day operations of Bain since 1999, and he had no say in the decision to invest in the surveillance company.

The New York Times public editor criticized the original story, noting that the facts are not in dispute, but saying the connection to Romney was a "real stretch."  

"On balance, this was a case of a newsworthy article that The Times overplayed," Arthur Brisbane, the public editor, wrote.

In a separate businesses move in 2008, Bain Capital sought to partner with the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei to buy 3M, a network equipment-maker.

Bain abandoned the plan due to opposition from the Bush administration. 

The House Intelligence Committee concluded earlier this month that Huawei poses a national security threat to the United States. 

After a yearlong investigation, the committee found that Huawei failed to provide sufficient information to ease concerns that the Chinese government could use the company to spy on the United States or sabotage critical communications networks.   

During the debate, Romney fought back against the accusation, saying Obama invested his own retirement savings in Chinese companies.

"Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies," Romney said to Obama. "You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman’s trust."

—Corrected at 11:33 p.m. to reflect that Obama accused Romney of investing in companies that spy on Chinese citizens, not Americans

—Updated at 8:55 a.m. on Oct. 17.