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American, Chinese experts weigh in on Obama's economic legacies

US President Barack Obama touches his glass in a toast to Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, right, as Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, joins in, during a state dinner at the White House, in Washington, September 25, 2015. Photo: Agencies

As Barack Obama will step down as president on January 20, the recently interviewed Samuel Tinsing Mok, former chief financial officer of the US Department of Labor, Yin Xiaohuang, a professor at the Occidental College, Wu Xianbiao, former deputy governor of the state of Delaware, and Yuan Zheng, a senior researcher of the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, asking them to talk about the president's efforts in promoting the American economy.

Below are the excerpts of the interview:

Mok: When Obama won the presidential election in 2008, the American economy was on the verge of collapse. But now, the economy has basically recovered from the hardest time, which is one of his great achievements that the Republican Party cannot deny. Obama used the administrative measures to save the automobile industry and reduce the unemployment rate to 4.6 percent. Although the "digital revolution" affected many people, it is an inevitable result of the technological and social development. As the time goes by, American people's living standard will improve because of it.

Surely, the middle class will shrink gradually, with many types of jobs disappearing. With the development of the technology, the American industries will see a turnaround. Despite the fact that many workers voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, who lashed out at the job losses, the American robotic industry, the world's most advanced, will bring benefits to the US in terms of labor force and production cost, when the plants outside the US come back home. That is all because of Obama, who sowed the seed of technology.

As for the government debt, it is an "ostensible" thing, which is not a big problem for America, as it can be interpreted as "cash poor". In fact, the US has many fortunes, which can be reflected in massive natural resources waiting to be exploited and its green card, which is very attractive to talented immigrants around the world. What's more, the American education can be seen as the biggest "commodity" that can be exported. In other words, it can be called a cultural invasion. The global financial system is still dollar-centered, so the US has no need to worry about its debt repayment ability due to its financial and technological dominance.

Yin: Obama made a contribution to safeguarding the rights of workers by implementing the federal minimum wage bill in American states. He focused on the protection of illegal immigrants. He was also committed to promoting the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Obama tried to establish a US-led global economic system by putting forward the proposal of establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In terms of the environmental protection, he limited the oil exploitation for the sake of long-term development.

Wu: During Obama's two tenures, the unemployment rate of the US reduced by half and the stock market gradually rebounded. More importantly, the Obama administration stopped the downward trend of the American economy which had been intensified under George W. Bush, and reduced the trade deficit by two-thirds.

The Obama administration did a lot in revitalizing the domestic automobile industry, but it did little in bringing back the US manufacturing. That cannot be blamed on Obama alone, but on the tradition of the Democratic Party, which would adopt the policies of benefiting the consumers after taking power. During the presidency of Obama, the American people could indeed buy better goods made in China with the same amount of money.

The massive increase in government debt will not be a thorny issue in the short run, because the US can solve the problem by printing more banknotes depending on dollar's global dominance. In the long run, people who hold dollar as a major foreign reserve currency are bound to buy properties and invest in other avenues in the US, which will reduce the pressure caused by the rising government debt.

Yuan: After taking office as president, Obama put most of his energy in domestic affairs, especially on economic revitalization. His foreign trade policies also served these goals. Helped by the stimulus policies, the American economy maintained an economic growth rate of 2-3 percent. In the later period of his tenure, the American economy achieved a moderate recovery, which can be seen as a key factor behind his high popularity rating during the 2016 presidential election.

(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi.)

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