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China Remains Vexing Campaign Test for Presidential Candidates

The question of how to handle the rising economic and military power has become a litmus test for the people who would like to become the next commander-in-chief.
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Photographer: Lan Hongguang/Xinhua Press/Corbis

It doesn’t rival Islamic State or abortion as an issue in the presidential race, but China might be the most complex challenge the winner will have to deal with.

The country, which has the world’s second-biggest economy and second-highest military spending, is a frenemy of the first order. It finances America’s federal budget deficit by buying Treasury bonds, and it sends more students to the U.S. than any other nation. It’s a natural ally on some issues (Islamic terrorism) but an implacable foe on others (freedom of navigation in the South China Sea).