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Nikki Haley Gets it Wrong on China

State of the Union: Foreign policy incompetence was on full display at the latest CNN town hall.
Nikki Haley Delivers Speech On Abortion In Virginia
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In a recent interview with The American Conservative, Senator J.D. Vance offered his thoughts on policy approaches to China, saying, “I think the right view is: China should not make our stuff, and we should try to avoid war with China. And the absolutely stupidest view is: China should make all of our stuff, and we should go to war with them.” Naturally, Nikki Haley sprinted to the latter position in last night’s CNN Republican Town Hall.

Early into the evening one Iowa voter asked the former U.N. ambassador about her views on U.S.-China relations when it comes to trade. “China, without question, is our number one security threat,” Haley rightly observed. Then, after cataloguing Chinese military buildup and technological advancement, she puzzlingly advocated for dealing with China “strictly through a national security lens,” flippantly saying, “I don’t care if Americans buy t-shirts and lightbulbs from China any more than I care if the Chinese buy agricultural products from our farmers. I welcome it.”


The incoherence continued. Appropriately outraged by illegal fentanyl smuggling through U.S. ports of entry, Haley called for sanctions against China in response, noting that “there’s nothing that they dislike more than when we hit their wallets”—somehow managing to avoid mention of the fact that as of March the U.S. retains a trade deficit of almost $23 billion.

Of course, this is to be expected of neocons like Haley. Her candidacy is an emergency resuscitation of the Republican consensus of yesteryear—no matter how much she brands herself as the harbinger of “generational change.” That consensus, long critiqued in the pages of this magazine for its tendency to weaken U.S. hard power even as it sowed chaos abroad and turned a blind eye to the levers of political economy, was on full display in last night’s town hall in Des Moines.

Throughout the night Haley modeled her approach to China off current support for Ukraine, dogmatically asserting that “When Ukraine wins that sends a message to China with Taiwan.” Harkening back to an incident in March where an MQ-9 Reaper drone near the Russian border was forced down due to a collision, Haley decried President Joe Biden’s lack of escalatory measures. “You know what I would’ve done if I was president? Put two drones up there and a fighter jet.”

China should make all of our stuff and we should go to war with them, indeed.