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Haley Hits Trump for ‘Moral Weakness’ on China

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said Tuesday that former President Donald Trump “did too little” outside of trade agreements as president to deter the Chinese threat and “showed moral weakness in his zeal to befriend [Chinese] President Xi.” 

Even as she acknowledged that Trump made “both parties take off their blinders” in relation to U.S.-Chinese relations, she repeatedly criticized the former president’s approach to China during a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank. 

“That sent a wrong message to the world,” she said of Trump’s approach to his personal relationship with Xi, making her clearest contrast thus far with her former boss and current rival for the GOP presidential nomination. 

Asked to elaborate on what she identified as Trump’s moral failings in this space during a brief question-and-answer session, Haley added: “We don’t congratulate Communism; we condemn it. That’s the moral clarity I’m talking about…You don’t tell a dictator the way they sit there and hold their hand down on their people is a good thing. You congratulate freedom, you congratulate democracy, you congratulate when people have individual liberties. You never congratulate Communism.”

She also parried a question about the now-public Trump tapes talking about classified documents, declining to comment on if they should disqualify him from running. “We’re gonna let the courts play that out,” Haley said.

The former U.N. Ambassador also offered tough words for the Biden administration, accusing them of “pandering” and operating from a place of fear in their dealings with the Chinese. “I don’t mind that Secretary Blinken went to China,” Haley said of Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “It’s the way they’re doing it. It’s showing that America’s running scared from China. That’s what turns my stomach.”

Haley also tied the current Russia-Ukraine war to the China threat, telling invited-guests at the conservative think tank that Chinese President Xi is watching that events in Russia closely. “A win for Russia is a win for China,” she said clearly.

“Now is the time to seize the moment and help Ukraine bring this war to a decisive end,” she said, referencing Putin’s weakness. “Our policy should be to help Ukraine reclaim its territory … That doesn’t require American troops or cash assistance,” she said, but it requires equipment and training. “If we do it, China will see our resolve and rethink its plans on Taiwan.”

These kinds of policy-specific, formal speeches are becoming a pattern for the Haley campaign, with this foreign policy event following a similar format to a speech she gave focused on abortion earlier this spring. 

It’s reminiscent — in style — of how Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave specific policy-centric speeches during her 2020 presidential campaign that allowed her to delve more deeply into topics and show her expertise.