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Nikki Haley swipes Ramaswamy, Scott on China ahead of first primary debate: ‘People who don’t understand’


Nikki Haley, a Republican seeking her party’s nomination for the presidency, criticized two of her fellow primary contenders over comments they made about China just ahead of the first GOP debate in Milwaukee Wednesday night.

Haley, also a former U.N. ambassador, said a statement made by entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — on only helping Taiwan until 2028 — points to a “complete lack of awareness” of its conflict with mainland China.

“It shows a complete lack of awareness of the breadth of the Chinese threat,” Haley initially told the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin. Her campaign later confirmed her comments to Fox News Digital. “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.”

She also described South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s hesitancy to ban TikTok, an app that shares data with the Chinese government, as “someone who is unsure” in how he would deal with the feud.

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Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, has made the global tension between the U.S. and China a major focus of her presidential campaign. (Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“We can’t have someone who is unsure about where they stand on China policy,” she said. “Banning TikTok is only the tip of the spear when it comes to defending against China.”

Haley has made the global tension between the U.S. and China a major focus of her presidential campaign. She and former Vice President Mike Pence will be the only two candidates on Milwaukee’s debate stage with diplomatic experience.

Drawing a clear contrast to her contenders, Haley said: “We will do whatever we need to do to defend Taiwan, much like we have done what we needed to do to defend Ukraine.”

Her comments echo those she told the American Enterprise Institute in June.

“The Communist Party’s endgame is clear. China is preparing its people for war. President Xi [Jinping] has openly said it,” Haley said during the event in Washington, D.C. 

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Haley added: “We should take him at his word and act accordingly. Instead, President Biden continues to dither. His action makes conflict more likely. We must act now to keep the peace and prevent war. And we need a leader who will rally our people to meet this threat – on every front.”

She also argued the U.S. should rally more regional allies, including deepening military ties with Japan, South Korea and Australia, and by forging stronger bonds with India and the Philippines.

“And we must finally get Europe to recognize that China threatens it as much as us. European countries are even further behind than we are in recognizing the Chinese threat. It’s time to shake them from their slumber,” she said. “We need a united front across the world. And one U.S. partner is especially important. Taiwan is the Communist Party’s most immediate target. If China invades, it will trigger the war that none of us want. We cannot let that happen.”

Tim Scott

DES MOINES, IA  August 15, 2023: US Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) answers questions during the Fair Side Chat with Governor Kim Reynolds at the Iowa State Fair Grounds on Tuesday August 15, 2023. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Haley has taken aim at Beijing for years, including during her work at the United Nations in the Trump administration.

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For years, Haley has called for the U.S. to be more aggressive in combating Beijing, including over trade, its aggressive military tactics in the South China Sea, its human rights abuses and its reluctance to comply with international requirements on energy, intellectual property rights, and sanctions.

Haley’s campaign previously told Fox News Digital that her administration would also combat Chinese involvement in the U.S. fentanyl crisis — illicit fentanyl is made in Mexico using Chinese precursors and moved across the border. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said China “bears responsibility” for its role in the crisis.

“Americans want a president who will lead from a position of strength—not weakness,” campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso told Fox News Digital. “Nikki Haley is the strongest and most vocal candidate in this race confronting Beijing’s many crimes and atrocities. She is China’s worst nightmare, and Xi Jinping knows it.”

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy, chairman and co-founder of Strive Asset Management and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, will be among the Republican presidential contenders who will face off Wednesday night in their first debate of the primary season. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Ramaswamy has offered more information on how his administration would deal with China, including potentially arming residents of Taiwan. He also claims to have “offered the most detailed deterrence plan” regarding mainland China’s potential invasion of Taiwan “of any candidate in either party.”

Scott has since clarified he would ban TikTok and “will keep China out of our homeland and out of our data.”

All three candidates get to address voters and further explain their stances on China and other issues as they are among the eight candidates who qualified for the first Republican presidential nomination debate, which will be hosted by Fox News at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.



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