President Romney's foreign policy would not necessarily be all that great for China either. He has promised to sell more advanced weaponry to Taiwan and would likely not care to spare much time explaining America's Asia security policy to Beijing. Rather, his administration would simply assert U.S. leadership in the region. On the surface, his blunt statements, if extrapolated into policy, would be more threatening toward Beijing. Nevertheless, because it is so direct, his rhetoric would invite less illusion and misperception, which could in the end be less misleading and less frustrating.
Obama still fruitlessly tries to explain that his Asia pivot isn't intended to contain China, and he makes gestures to cooperate with China when it is possible. This overture (before the pivot) succeeded in the first year of his administration, but since the end of 2009, the bilateral relationship has soured.
Today, China's increased capacity allows it more confidence and means to shape the Sino-U.S. relationship. However, this has to be applied properly, and much of this is based on knowing clearly where the other party stands. China might have had good reasons to bluntly reject the U.S. demand to curb global warming at the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit, but it would be more constructive if China had engaged the United States more patiently and courteously. Beijing had cause to demand an immediate halt of Washington's weapons sales to Taiwan in 2010 with the threat that the United States would face "real" sanctions. But again, compromise would have been better. Beijing has legitimate "core interests" in the South China Sea, but once again it would make more sense to clarify as early as possible that China doesn't aspire to claim the entire region, as it did early this year. A good China-U.S. relationship depends on both countries. China's rise makes the relationship less dependent on the United States than it used to be, but it is not yet the time when this relationship is more dependent on Beijing's actions than it is on Washington's.
The truth is that it still matters to Beijing who's in the White House. And China won't have as much to worry about with a President Romney. If Romney wins in November, both he and presumably Xi Jinping will likely shake hands and forget what candidate Romney has said thus far, in much the same manner as both Beijing and Washington have moved beyond the rhetoric of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign.
But China has reason to be concerned that a second term for Obama -- and the continuation of present policies -- would present continuous challenges to the relationship. A new president would allow for a clean slate, one that wouldn't push the United States in a harmful direction with regard to China. And, frankly, the quiet truth is that even if President Romney were to intend irrationally to hurt China, there's little chance he would actually be able to chart a path to do so in which the United States remained unhurt by its own actions.