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Haley Campaign Press Release - Washington Post Debate Preview: Watch Haley on China Tonight

August 23, 2023

Voters must look closer at who has real experience and who truly knows what they are talking about. That should be the standard for the next commander in chief.

By: Josh Rogin
Online here

Competing to be the biggest hawk on China, the Republican candidates for president are touting a dizzying array of policies — many of which are disconnected from reality. But the real test for GOP voters should be who has credibility and whose plans actually make sense, not who seems most aggressive. That will drastically narrow the field.

When eight of the Republican candidates take the debate stage Wednesday night, each will have laid down markers to show he or she is the toughest China hawk around. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis often lashes out against China in campaign speeches and signed three bills to curb Chinese influence in his state in May. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy gave a speech last week at the Nixon Library that mentioned China 44 times. Even South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is now positioning himself as a China hawk.

But despite what seems like a consensus, there are big differences among the GOP candidates on China — on their records as well as their policy ideas. A successful debate would draw out these distinctions for voters and point out where candidates are talking nonsense.

For example, one question that should be asked of all candidates is, "Would you send the U.S. military to defend Taiwan if China attacks, as President Biden has repeatedly promised to do?" Former vice president Mike Pence told me he wants to keep China guessing by not committing in advance one way or the other. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie told me he would send in the U.S. military if all other options had failed.

In an interview, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley went further than she has previously in signaling that she would send the U.S. military to defend Taiwan if China attacked.

"We will do whatever we need to do to defend Taiwan, much like we have done what we needed to do to defend Ukraine," she told me.

Ramaswamy says he would, as president, send the U.S. military to defend Taiwan, but only until 2028 when he promises the United States would achieve semiconductor independence. (Taiwan produces 92 percent of the world's most advanced semiconductors; the manufacturing base took decades to assemble.) Ramaswamy's kind of hawkish realism sounds appealing, but it promises the impossible, because four years is not nearly enough time to build an independent semiconductor industry. Haley told me that his proposal is not only unrealistic, but also reveals his misunderstanding of the problem, because it construes U.S. interests in Taiwan too narrowly.

"It shows a complete lack of awareness of the breadth of the Chinese threat," Haley said, referring to Ramaswamy's China plans. "That's the problem with people who don't understand national security, and he proved that. We can't have a novice going into the White House."

Much of Ramaswamy's remaining China approach is similarly nonsensical. For example, in an interview on CNN Monday, Ramaswamy was pressed on his suggestion that every Taiwanese household be given a gun, ostensibly to deter Beijing from invading. He defended himself by explaining this was only one part of his deterrence strategy. But his talk of "exporting our Second Amendment" (as Ramaswamy calls it) to Taiwan is not only bad policy. It also reveals his ignorance of Taiwan's domestic law, culture and politics, because the Taiwanese people would never go along with this idea.

Ramaswamy wants to coax Moscow into giving up its military alliance with Beijing by ceding parts of Ukraine, a deal Vladimir Putin would never strike. Ramaswamy asserts India can be enticed with a trade deal to block the Malacca Strait if China attacks Taiwan, even though there's zero evidence that the leaders in New Delhi would make such a bargain.

In our interview, Haley also criticized Scott for being late to acknowledge the China threat. As ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Scott has tried to weaken proposed restrictions on technology investments in China and pushed back against efforts to ban TikTok. Now he's saying in his campaign ads that as president, he "will keep China out of our homeland and out of our data." That's opportunism at best and disingenuousness at worst, Haley told me.

"We can't have someone who is unsure about where they stand on China policy," she told me. "Banning TikTok is only the tip of the spear when it comes to defending against China."

DeSantis also seems to be learning on the job. Three weeks ago, he wasn't sure if he was for banning TikTok. Then, last week, he decided he supports a ban. His campaign's "Declaration of Economic Independence" promises to reverse the U.S.-China trade deficit ($382.9 billion last year) and stop the importing of goods that rely on stolen intellectual property, with little explanation of how.

Haley, who is trailing DeSantis and Ramaswamy in the polls, is also putting herself forth as a China hawk. But she at least has some real diplomatic experience to tout (as does Pence). She negotiated with Chinese diplomats at the United Nations. She spoke out against Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong and the Uyghur genocide even when her boss, President Donald Trump, refused to do so.

In a speech last month at the American Enterprise Institute, she criticized some of Trump's China policies. She said Trump was good on trade but "did too little about the rest of the Chinese threat" and demonstrated "moral weakness in his zeal to befriend [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping.]"

While the GOP field is divided on Ukraine, being anti-China is universally popular among Republicans, which explains why the candidates all sound similar on that issue these days. But that's why voters must look closer at who has real experience and who truly knows what they are talking about. That should be the standard for the next commander in chief.

Nikki Haley, Haley Campaign Press Release - Washington Post Debate Preview: Watch Haley on China Tonight Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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