GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney slammed President Obama for what he says is weakness in foreign relations, and hammered the Chinese for unfair trade practices in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Thursday.

In the op-ed, titled “How I’ll respond to China’s rising power,” Romney called the president a “near supplicant to Beijing,” and accused Obama of “begging [China] to continue buying American debt so as to finance his profligate spending here at home.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“His administration demurred from raising issues of human rights for fear it would compromise agreement on the global economic crisis or even ‘the global climate-change crisis.’ Such weakness has only encouraged Chinese assertiveness and made our allies question our staying power in East Asia,” Romney wrote.

The likely future leader of China, Xi Jinping, was in Washington this week to meet with the president. In a joint press conference with Xi on Tuesday, Obama criticized Beijing for keeping its currency at an artificially low value, which has contributed to the United States’ massive trade deficit with the Chinese.

And at a campaign stop in Milwaukee on Wednesday, as Xi continued his stay in Washington, the president went further, saying he would act if American competitors didn’t “play by the rules.”

“I directed my administration to create a Trade Enforcement Unit with one job — investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China,” Obama said. “If the playing field is level, I promise you — America will always win.”

But Romney said he would go further, even if it meant a trade war with China.

“While I am prepared to work with Chinese leaders to ensure that our countries both benefit from trade, I will not continue an economic relationship that rewards China's cheating and penalizes American companies and workers,” he wrote. “Unless China changes its ways, on day one of my presidency I will designate it a currency manipulator and take appropriate counteraction. A trade war with China is the last thing I want, but I cannot tolerate our current trade surrender.”

While Chinese relations are not a pressing political issue, the opinion piece was an opportunity for Romney to elevate his candidacy through a direct attack on the president.

Romney is currently scrambling to fend off a surge from GOP presidential rival Rick Santorum, who is leading the field in Romney’s former home state of Michigan.