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Checking the facts on China

By Jon Greenberg
Published on Friday, October 26th, 2012 at 9:03 p.m.

In the 2012 campaign, China has been a favorite villain.

Whether it was Barack Obama claiming that Mitt Romney had sent jobs to China, or Romney accusing Obama of letting China get away with currency manipulation, invoking China was a way the candidates accused each other of waste or questionable patriotism -- or both.

Some of the claims had substance, but most fell shy of the truth and some were over-the-top whoppers:

Did the stimulus pay for windmills in China? -- This campaign commercial showed dollar bills going up in flames as it asked, "Where did the stimulus money go?" Part of the answer was windmills from China. There was a grain of truth. One goal for the stimulus was to spur the growth of a domestic renewable energy industry. However, because the American sector was relatively small, many of the large components that go into wind turbines came from European firms and to a very small degree, from China. We rated this claim Mostly False, not just because it exaggerated the China angle but because it ignored the real growth of American jobs in the renewable sector.

Sending money to China for a wind farm in Texas -- A mailer from Americans for Tax Reform, a group committed to small government and low taxes, asserted that Chinese wind turbine makers got millions in stimulus money to build a wind farm in Texas. The core weakness in this claim is that the project didn’t exist. This fact was widely available at the time the mailer made the rounds in Florida and other states, earning this claim a rating of Pants on Fire.

Fueling the shift of American jobs to China --This was one of a series of ads in which Barack Obama went after Mitt Romney for investing in companies that sent jobs overseas. The ad claimed that in the late 1990s, Romney put money into a firm with two factories in China that produced coffee makers, bread makers, and other small appliances. This part of the ad was accurate. Romney’s firm, Bain Capital, sought out and bought a large block of stock in the firm. But the ad went further to say that those products "could have been made" in the U.S. While true in theory, the harsh reality is that by that time, that sort of manufacturing already was rare in America. On that basis, we rated the claim Mostly False. When Obama has said simply that Romney invested in China, we have rated it Mostly True.

Obama's investments in China -- In the second presidential debate, Romney turned the tables on Obama and said the president's pension funds had invested in firms that manufacture in China. We found he was right, although Obama has no say over where the pension fund managers put money. We rated it Mostly True.

Obama says he stood up to China -- An Obama ad boasted about standing up to China:  "When a flood of Chinese tires threatened a thousand American jobs, it was President Obama who stood up to China and protected American workers." The ad also said that Romney criticized Obama for taking that step. We rated the claims Mostly True.

Endorsing forced abortions and sterilizations? -- During one of the feisty exchanges in the vice-presidential debate, Paul Ryan said "The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized and wouldn't second-guess their one-child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations." We found that on a 2011 trip to China, Joe Biden was talking with students about the challenge of paying for Medicare and compared the demographic phenomenon to circumstances in China.

"You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I’m not second-guessing -- of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people," Biden said.

That’s far from an affirmative endorsement that Ryan suggests. We rated the statement Mostly False.

When did you stop taking money from Chinese prostitutes for your campaign? -- One of the most outlandish claims we’ve seen came from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC put out a news release that claimed Ohio Republican congressman Jim Renacci was due to receive campaign cash with unsavory connections. The DCCC’s logic ran something like this:

Billionaire Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave more than $60,000 to the Republican counterpart of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee. The national committee provides support for candidates such as Renacci. A former Adelson manager alleged in a lawsuit that Adelson personally approved prostitution at resorts he owns in Macau. Adelson denies it but nevertheless, any money he gave must be tainted -- or so the Democrats would have voters believe.

It not only earned a Pants on Fire., but Adelson complained and got the DCCC to apologize.

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Researchers: Jon Greenberg

Names in this article: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

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