Of the four candidates still standing, Ron Paul seems most amenable to peaceable engagement with China, even as he recognizes the difficulties that such relations would present. According to The Diplomat, if elected President Paul would terminate America's spy plane missions over China. He would reject a possible tariff on imported Chinese products in retaliation for Beijing's manipulation of the yen. Paul reportedly favors reconsideration of the Taiwan Relations Act, and opposed a Congressional resolution congratulating Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo on his receipt of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Beijing might be well-pleased if Paul took the Republican Presidential nomination, though the chances of that appear to be dwindling with each Republican primary and caucus.

Santorum and Gingrich

Rick Santorum's stance on China appears to be based, as are many of his positions, on his personal religious convictions. While Santorum has made few specific proposals on how to handle China, his rhetoric has been fiery. In a blog post titled, "10 Steps to Promote Our Interests Around the World," Santorum wrote that "China should be challenged on religious liberty rather than be given a veto on the human-right activists we wish to support."

Interestingly, Santorum went on to observe that China and Islam "are competing for the hearts and minds of much of Africa, and we cannot turn our back from the investment and commitments we have made." Santorum appears to see diplomacy primarily as a battle of religious principles and, if nominated for president, would presumably argue that America should use foreign aid money to promote his strongly-held traditional Christian values around the world.

Perhaps surprisingly, the feisty Newt Gingrich has essentially sidestepped specific criticisms of China and its policies. Instead, Gingrich has focused on strengthening America's ability to compete worldwide with China and, presumably, any other country that poses an economic challenge. His optimistic emphasis on beefing up American competitiveness undoubtedly plays well with Republican voters. However, If Gingrich were to win the Republican nomination, he would be wise to develop a fuller and more specific position on China before debating President Obama.

Romney

Mitt Romney

Of all the candidates, intermittent frontrunner Mitt Romney seems to have the best-developed position on the various challenges China presents. (His campaign is also alone among the four in having a searchable Web site.) He has directly accused China of manipulating its currency and proposed aggressive retaliatory tariffs. In a white paper titled "An American Century: A Strategy to Secure America's Enduring Interests and Ideals," Romney warns that China's economic strength and military muscle could enable Beijing to dominate East Asia.

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