The eight candidates at the first Republican presidential debate in Wisconsin discussed China’s threats against the United States, but some said more time should be spent on the issue.
“China is the No. 1 threat to our country and every minute that these candidates spend talking about the past instead of about the future is … you know who loves it? [President Joe] Biden loves it, but China loves it,” said North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum during the debate, when answering a question about Jan. 6.
After the debate, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told Fox News that heated arguments among the candidates were a distraction from more important topics, including the southern U.S. border and China.
“We didn’t talk long enough about the challenges that we have with China,” Mr. Scott said. “It is not the strength of China. It is the weakness of Biden that is a problem that we face as a nation. We need to dig into some of the most important consequential issues facing the American people and not have a food fight on stage.”
For the 2024 White House race, candidates’ positions on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will likely be one of the determinants for voting behavior. According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of those polled named China as the greatest threat to the United States, a large increase from 24 percent in 2019.
During the debate, Fox News co-host Bret Baier listed some of the threats posed by China, including its nuclear arsenal and Navy forces. Mr. Baier also pointed to the arrests of two Navy sailors on Aug. 3, who were accused of passing on sensitive military information to Chinese intelligence officers.
‘China’s Gas Station’
When asked how he would deter China as president, Mr. Burgum criticized the Biden administration for being a “complete fail,” criticizing recent trips to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen.
“Russia has become China’s gas station,” Mr. Burgum said. “China imports 10 million barrels of oil a day more than any other country in the world.”
“The Biden administration sends Blinken [and] Yellen over there … They don’t even bring up energy because they’re too busy trying to kill the U.S. energy here. And what we need to do is not meetings, not press releases,” Mr. Burgum said.
Instead of press releases, Mr. Burgum suggested providing more arms to Taiwan, a self-ruled island nation that the CCP has targeted for take over.
“We need anti-ship missiles on Taiwan, the way that you have a war never start, which is the goal, the way you have peace through strength, is that you actually have strength, you actually have deterrence,” Mr. Burgum said. “What we’ve got going on in Ukraine is an example of when deterrence fails.”
Washington is Taipei’s biggest arms supplier. In January, Taiwan’s defense ministry announced that the island would buy 100 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 60 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and other military equipment, from the United States in a $1.4 billion arms deal.
Mr. Blinken and Ms. Yellen are not the only U.S. officials to have visited China in recent months. In July, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry spent three days in Beijing talking to Chinese officials, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is scheduled to visit China beginning on Aug. 27.
‘A Win for China’
During the debate, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy drew criticism from other GOP candidates for his stance on not wanting to offer additional aid to Ukraine if elected president. He said that breaking up the alliance between Russia and China would be more important.
“Ukraine is not a priority for the United States of America,” Mr. Ramaswamy said. “The real threat we face today is Communist China, and we are driving Russia further into China’s arms.”
Mr. Ramaswamy warned, “The Russia-China military alliance is the single greatest threat we face. Nobody in either political party is talking about it.”
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley dismissed Mr. Ramaswamy’s idea, criticizing her rival as wanting to “hand Ukraine to Russia.”
“A win for Russia is a win for China. We have to know that Ukraine is the first line of defense for us,” Ms. Haley added. “He wants to let China eat Taiwan.”
Just weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin upgraded bilateral ties to a “no limits” partnership. In March, the two leaders further deepened their ties, after signing a series of agreements to further their “strategic cooperation.”
Recently, 11 Russian and Chinese warships sailed together close to the coast of Alaska, prompting the U.S. Navy to dispatch four destroyers to escort the warships out of U.S. coastal waters.
Mr. Ramaswamy has previously said that he is willing to make “major concessions” to Russia in order to end the war in Ukraine. His desire to end the Ukraine war rests on his argument that China would like to see a weakened Western military force.
“China wants the Ukraine war to last as long as possible to deplete Western military capacity before invading Taiwan. It’s working: we think we appear stronger by helping Ukraine, but we actually become weaker vis-à-vis China,” Mr. Ramaswamy wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in May.
‘An Act of War’
The fentanyl crisis in the United States came up during the debate, with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie naming China as responsible for the drug problem.
“One last thing on this fentanyl issue, with China, we can’t take our eye off of that ball,” Mr. Christie said. “Yes, it’s important that we need to secure the border, very important, as I just said, but China is sending these chemicals to these drug cartels, for them to create the fentanyl that is killing hundreds of thousands of our citizens.”
“The Chinese are engaging in an act of war against us, killing our citizens, we better make that priority one in our conversations with China, and to try to straighten that relationship out,” Mr. Christie continued. “Because if we don’t, we’re going to lose more and more of our citizens.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death among Americans aged between 18 and 45.
At the Port of Nogales, Arizona, customs and border protection officers have made several fentanyl seizures in August, including once finding 615,200 fentanyl pills and 24.2 pounds of fentanyl powder hidden in the floor of a car.
Former President Donald Trump, who did not take part in the debate, called
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