What's at stake in the 2012 presidential election - in photos

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The U.S. accuses China of flouting trade rules and undervaluing its currency to helps its exporters, hurting American competitors and jobs. But imposing tariffs could set off a trade war and drive up prices for American consumers.

Tensions now have spread to the automotive sector: The U.S. is seeking international rulings against Chinese subsidies for its auto and auto-parts exports and against Chinese duties on U.S. autos. Romney says he'll get tougher on China's trade violations. Obama has taken a variety of trade actions against China, but on the currency issue, he has opted to wait for economic forces to encourage Beijing to raise values.

Cheap Chinese goods have benefited American consumers and restrained inflation. But those imports have hurt American manufacturers. And many U.S. companies outsource production to China. One study estimated that between 2001 and 2010, 2.8 million U.S. jobs were lost or displaced to China.

In this photo, an anti-Japan protester raises up his fists and casts a shadow on a Chinese national flag during a protest outside Japanese Embassy in Beijing, China, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. The banner, partly seen in the back, reads "Diaoyu Islands belong to China since 1372! " A group of Japanese activists swam ashore and raised flags early Sunday on one of a group of islands at the center of an escalating territorial dispute with China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)