Obama countered with a TV spot focused on Romney's past relationship with China. While Romney headed Bain Capital in the 1990s, the firm invested in several companies that operated in China. The Romney campaign has insisted that the Chinese-based factories did not supplant U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Much of the evidence is based on U.S. Securities and Exchange documents from that period, providing only sparse information on the China-based activities of these firms. But records do raise questions about what appear in some cases to be a broadening reliance on Chinese factories and workers by several firms targeted by Bain in the 1990s for investments and takeover bids.
Romney's posture on China's economic expansion was far less confrontational when he headed Bain Capital. In March 1998, while attending a forum on the future of U.S. cities, he extolled China's workplaces, which have in recent years come under fire for exploiting Chinese workers.
"I went to a factory of 5,000 workers making bread makers and so forth," said Romney, then the CEO of Bain. He said they were "working, working, working, as hard as they could, at rates of roughly 50 cents an hour. They cared about their jobs; they wouldn't even look up as we walked by."
On Monday, Romney called for a "crackdown on nations that cheat like China. That's killing jobs."
Associated Press writers Stephen Braun in California, Jim Abrams and Matthew Pennington in Washington, and Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington contributed to this report.
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