As the presidential race shifts towards foreign policy, China takes center stage.
As the presidential race shifts towards foreign policy, China takes center stage. - 
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Both candidates see political opportunity in talking about China, says Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Edward Alden. "They’re each trying to exploit what they see as a weakness in the other’s history."

For President Obama, that means tying Mitt Romney to American jobs Bain Capital companies sent abroad, like in the last debate.

President Obama: "When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China."

Mitt Romney will look for another chance to hammer the President for not publicly accusing China of shackling its currency for trade advantage.

Mitt Romney: "The President has a regular opportunity to label them as a currency manipulator, but refuses to do so. On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator."

But Alden doesn’t expect the tough rhetoric to have much impact on U.S.-China ties. "The Chinese will tend to discount it, because they know it’s an election year," he says.

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Follow Mark Garrison at @GarrisonMark