Former US Treasury secretary Henry Paulson showed doubt Tuesday at the impact of election year criticism of China but said the world's two largest economies needed to make more efforts to improve ties.
President Barack Obama has boasted on the campaign trail of confronting China over US jobs, while his Republican challenger Mitt Romney has lashed out at Beijing and accused Obama of being a "supplicant" to the communist giant.
Paulson, who served under Republican president George W. Bush, said that heated words were nothing new in election campaigns, telling a Washington audience: "I think the important thing is to look through the rhetoric."
"I don't believe that either candidate wants to make China a focus of the campaign because I think they know that we need to cooperate with China on a whole range of areas," Paulson said at the Atlantic Council.
"I think you've got nationalism in both countries. Nationalism plays."
But he added: "When you look at both President Obama and Mitt Romney and the position they've taken, they have argued for a level playing field and a competition according to the global trade rules... and made very clear that they want to do that without having a trade war."
But Paulson said that a broader consensus in the United States on ties with China had broken down, with a growing number of business and opinion leaders questioning whether the relationship benefited both sides.
The former chairman and CEO of Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs said that China and the United States were increasingly interdependent and that US policymakers should see an interest in a healthy Chinese economy.
"Bluntly put, the United States will suffer if China fails to get ahead of its growing list of economic challenges, which are now threatening to interrupt is remarkable record of success in recent decades," he wrote in a paper released by the Atlantic Council.
Paulson recommended steps to improve relations, including for both the United States and China to show openness to investment from the other nation.
"Many Americans react negatively to foreign direct investment -- even though it is the ultimate voice of confidence in our system," Paulson wrote.
Source: AFP American Edition