Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said that the Chinese military was “stronger” at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and accused the former president of being “singularly focused” on trade with China while he was in office.
“China was military stronger – militarily stronger – when President Trump left office than when he entered. That’s bad. But Joe Biden’s record is much worse,” the 2024 Republican presidential candidate, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a policy speech on China at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Tuesday.
Haley, who is polling in the single digits, has started to take more direct aim at the Republican primary’s leading candidates in recent weeks. Tuesday marked her strongest public objections to Trump’s record with China so far.
She said Trump “did too little about the rest of the Chinese threat” and demonstrated “moral weakness in his zeal to befriend [Chinese] President Xi.”
“He did not put us on a stronger military foothold in Asia. He did not stop the flow of American technology and investment into the Chinese military. He did not effectively rally our allies against the Chinese threat. Even the trade deal he signed came up short when China predictively failed to live up to its commitments,” Haley said.
She added that, “Trump congratulated the Communist Party on its 70th anniversary of conquering China. That sends a wrong message to the world. Chinese communism must be condemned, never congratulated.”
Haley did say that Trump deserves credit for pushing both parties to “take off their blinders” with regard to threats from China and claimed that Biden’s track record on China is worse than Trump’s.
She called Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China last week a “gold plated-invitation for more Chinese aggression, not less.”
“Just look at what happened. China’s scolded us then President Xi pronounced it was a good meeting. He only says that when he gets a lot more than he gives. In fact, he gave us nothing,” Haley said.
In her speech laying out what her policy toward China would look like as president, Haley declared the Chinese Communist Party an “enemy” and deemed it the “most dangerous foreign threat we face since the second world war.”
“The Communist Party’s endgame is clear. China is preparing its people for war. President Xi has openly said it. We should take him at his word and act accordingly,” she said.
Haley added that the question of China is a question for presidential leadership, saying there must be a “series of fundamental shifts” in US policy. She said that her administration would respond domestically, economy and militarily.
She also proposed specific moves, including pushing Congress to put an end to permanent trade relations with China until the flow of fentanyl into the US ends, and eliminating federal funding for all universities that take Chinese money.
“Universities must choose, you either take Chinese money or you take American money, but the days of taking both are over. It shouldn’t be a hard decision,” Haley said
Haley also said that the US should ban all lobbying from the CCP and stop allowing licenses for exporting sensitive technology to China.
On Taiwan, she said that the US should make clear that if China invades Taiwan “it would mean a full-blown economic decoupling and it would massively damage China.” Though Haley did not explicitly commit to keeping or getting rid of the US policy of strategic ambiguity when it comes to Taiwan.
Haley also said that a Russian defeat in the Ukraine war “would be an enormous loss for China” and – as she has done before – made the case for continued support to Ukraine so that it can reclaim its territory.
“Now is the time to seize the moment and help Ukraine bring this war to a decisive end. Make no mistakes China is watching the war in Ukraine with great interest,” Haley said. “China is seeing what most fears if it invades Taiwan, but that could change in short order. If America and the West abandon Ukraine and Russia succeeds in taking its territory and freedom, China will hear an unmistakable message. That message can only encourage China to invade Taiwan as soon as possible. The warning signs are already flashing.”