China Prepares for Leadership Transition as US Readies for Presidential Election

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On November 8, just two days after Election Day in the United States, the Chinese Community Party will undergo its own leadership transition, at the 2012 Party Congress. China has figured prominently into the 2012 presidential election, as President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have promised severe action against the Asian country in every debate.

"On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator," Romney explained in the first debate, "which will allow me as president to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers."

President Obama touted his record against China. "I know Americans had — had seen jobs being shipped overseas, businesses and workers not getting a level playing field when it came to trade....That’s the reason why we have brought more cases against China for violating trade rules than the other — the previous administration had done in two terms."

But for all the tough talk American voters have heard on China, how much do we understand about the nation of 1.3 billion people? How will China's new leadership affect its relationship with the United States? In the wake of the Bo Xilai scandal, is there a trust deficit between the Chinese people and the CCP? How have infrastructure problems — particularly the 2011 train crash that killed forty people and exposed serious flaws in China's much-hyped railway system — influenced Chinese citizen's perceptions of their own government? 

Jonathan Fenby is the former editor of the South China Morning Post, and a former correspondent for The Economist. His latest book is "Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How It Got There, and Where It Is Heading."