Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is promising to get tough on China to help American workers, but his plans could backfire.
Romney is pledging, on his first day in office, to designate China a currency manipulator, a step no U.S. administration has taken against any country for 18 years.
That could lead to tariffs punishing China for policies that Americans believe unfairly keep Chinese products cheap, hurting U.S. manufacturers. Tariffs could trigger a trade war with a country that is the fastest-growing market for U.S. exports. Even if they don't, the designation would instantly set back relations with Asia's emerging superpower.
The U.S. seeks Chinese cooperation on international hot spots, such as North Korea and Iran, and wants to narrow differences over handling maritime territorial disputes in East Asia.