MICHELE NORRIS: From NPR News and Iowa Public Radio, we're back with our debate among the Democratic presidential candidates.
I'm Michele Norris.
SIEGEL: I'm Robert Siegel.
INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.
We're broadcasting from Des Moines, and in this part of the debate, we're going to focus on a changing China and its effects here at home.
SIEGEL: We'll talk about the economic power of China and what it means for U.S. consumers, U.S. workers and the American financial system. We'll also hear about the strategic challenges China presents, its huge military buildup, its enormous appetite for natural resources, its environmental record. We'll also cover human rights, we hope, and China's growing influence in the world.
NORRIS: And that's where we'd like to start, and I'd like to pose a question to many of you. Given China's size, its muscular manufacturing capabilities, its military buildup, at this point — and also including its large trade deficit — at this point, who has more leverage, China or the U.S.? And I'm going to begin with you, Senator Edwards.
SEN. EDWARDS: I think that what's happened with the last seven years with the Bush administration is America's faced over the long term with two very serious challenges, one of which they've been a bit obsessed with, which is the issue of terrorism. The other is the rise and strength of China, which they've done virtually nothing about on any front, I mean, ranging from China sending dangerous toys into the United States to our trade relationship with China to, as Robert just mentioned, their buildup of their military, which they're doing opaquely. We know very little about what they're actually doing.
On top of that, they're obsessed with their own internal economic development, and that results in them propping up bad regimes, like Sudan, like Iran. They're doing incredible damage to the environment. So the answer to the question is, America continues to have serious economic leverage with the Chinese — and diplomatic leverage with the Chinese.
NORRIS: Who has more leverage?
MR. EDWARDS: Well, I think that's — what we know is they're growing — they're strong. I think America is stronger today, and if we deal with these issues and we deal with them in a serious way, across the board, and we engage on these issues, which we have not been doing, and we see the consequences for American children right now, with these dangerous lead-filled toys coming into the United States, with this extraordinary trade deficit that we have, their growing of their military, we see them propping up genocide in western Sudan, in Darfur, with their economic development there.
MR. EDWARDS: America must engage the Chinese on all these issues.
NORRIS: All right. We'll get to that question of product safety in just a minute.
First, Senator Obama.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, there are three issues that we have to deal with. Number one is we've got to get our own fiscal house in order. Our leverage is weakening when we run up enormous deficits funding a war that should have never been authorized, and we then are taking out the credit card with the Chinese. That gives us less leverage.