President Barack Obama called China an "adversary" of the United States for the first time during tonight's debate, changing his own administration's messaging on the U.S.-China relationship and contradicting his own secretary of state.
"China is both an adversary, but also a potential partner," Obama said during the debate.
"China is doesn't have to be an adversary," Romney responded.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to agree with Romney, not her boss. She's said on several occasions that China is not an adversary and doesn't have to become one.
"Now, some believe that China on the rise is, by definition, an adversary. To the contrary, we believe that the United States and China can benefit from and contribute to each other's successes," Clinton said in one her first speeches in office in 2009.
Apparently one of those "some" people is President Obama.
Still, as the Obama administration has became more wary of China's actions and intentions, Clinton has avoided calling China an "adversary." Asked last year if China were a "friend, foe, or adversary," she declined to say whether it were any one of the three.
"Well, my hope is that we have a normal relationship, a very positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship, where in some areas we are going to compete - there's no doubt about that - but in many areas we're going to cooperate. And we've seen that pattern in the last two years and it's a pattern that I think reflects the reality and the complexity of our relationship," she said.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.