COLUMBIA, S.C. – Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday criticized former President Donald Trump for being too friendly to China during his time in office, while also warning that weak support for Ukraine would “only encourage” China to invade Taiwan.
Haley, a Republican presidential candidate running against Trump, said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute that Trump was “almost singularly focused” on the U.S.-China trade relationship but ultimately did “too little about the rest of the Chinese threat.”
Specifically, Haley noted that Trump failed to rally U.S. allies “against the Chinese threat” and that he had congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule in China.
“That sends a wrong message to the world,” Haley said. “Chinese communism must be condemned, never congratulated.”
Haley’s comments, promoted by her presidential campaign as “a major foreign policy speech,” came a week and a half after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Xi in Beijing. Blinken said they had agreed to “stabilize” badly deteriorated U.S.-China ties, but there was little indication that either country was prepared to bend from positions on issues including trade, Taiwan, human rights conditions in China and Hong Kong, Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea, and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Haley did note that Trump imposed tariffs and other trade restrictions on the superpower, saying he “deserves credit for upending this bipartisan consensus.” But she added, “Being clear-eyed is just not enough.”
As Trump remains the clear front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, his rivals are increasingly lashing out at him. On Tuesday in New Hampshire, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that, unlike Trump, he was “actually going to build the wall,” a reference to Trump's 2016 signature issue that he fell short of meeting during his first term.
Haley, who served for two years as Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, said President Joe Biden has been “much worse” when it comes to dealing with threats she said China poses to America's economic, domestic and military security. She also said that China's military buildup and aggression toward Taiwan shows that the nation is “preparing its people for war," a conflict she said would draw in the U.S. and other global partners if left unchecked.
“We must act now to keep the peace and prevent war,” she said. “And we need a leader that will rally our people to meet this threat on every single front. ... Communist China is an enemy. It is the most dangerous foreign threat we’ve faced since the Second World War."
In a question-and-answer session with reporters, Haley was asked about comments earlier Tuesday from Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a fellow Republican presidential candidate, who said, “What’s a Uygher?" in response to a question from radio show host Hugh Hewitt about the predominantly Muslim group that China has been accused of oppressing.
Haley, who didn't mention Suarez in her response, called the allegations of sexual abuse and religious discrimination against the Uyghurs a potential “genocide,” adding, “The fact that the whole world is ignoring it, is shameful.”
For his part, Suarez later tweeted that he is “well aware of the suffering of the Uyghurs in China” but just “didn’t recognize the pronunciation."
In her speech, Haley also called Biden “far too slow and weak in helping Ukraine,” warning that a failure to send enough military equipment to help stem Russia’s invasion there could “only encourage China to invade Taiwan as soon as possible,” leading to further international conflict.
“The events of this past weekend show how weak and shaky the Russian leadership is,” Haley said, referencing the short-lived weekend revolt by mercenary soldiers who briefly took over a Russian military headquarters. “Make no mistake: China is watching the war with Ukraine with great interest.”
Some of Haley's Republican rivals, including Trump and DeSantis, have faced criticism over their own comments toward Ukraine. Both Trump and DeSantis have said that defending Ukraine is not a national security priority for the U.S. DeSantis also had to walk back his characterization of Russia’s war in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute."
Last month, Biden approved a new package of military aid for Ukraine that totals up to $300 million and includes additional munitions for drones and an array of other weapons. In all, the U.S. has committed more than $37.6 billion in weapons and other equipment to Ukraine since Russia attacked on Feb. 24, 2022.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP