Former Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that China is on the verge of becoming an “evil empire” as he and fellow Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination ramp up rhetoric against what they say is America’s largest foreign opponent.
“China is the greatest strategic and economic threat facing the United States in the 21st century,” Pence said in a speech at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington.
“China may not yet be an evil empire, but it is working hard to become one,” Pence said.
Pence called for more arms sales to Taiwan, cutting U.S. economic ties with key Chinese industries, restricting Chinese nationals working in U.S. tech companies to curb intellectual property theft, and a nationwide ban on TikTok social media in Chinese hands.
Republicans campaigning to become the party’s favorite for the November 2024 elections are in near-unanimous agreement: China is the US’s greatest foreign enemy.
In this Republican race, the attacks are more frequent and the proposals bolder, political operatives said, thanks to a shift in public opinion in the US.
About 50% of Americans consider China the biggest threat to the United States, according to a Pew Research poll released in late July. According to 17% of respondents, Russia is next.
Vivek Ramaswamy, a technology investor in the race, will give a speech on Thursday outlining his plan to secure economic independence from China.
Fellow rival and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will also deliver a foreign policy speech soon, his aides said. He is expected to set out an aggressive stance towards China. DeSantis has already called for an end to normal trade relations with China. In Florida, he has banned TikTok on government and school-issued devices.
In his speech, Pence reinforced divisions within the Republican candidates over the war in Ukraine, and how China will view the continued US response to Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.
Pence said it is critical that the U.S. provide Ukraine with all the military support needed so it can defeat Russian forces.
Without naming them, Pence denounced what he called the “isolationism” of some 2024 rivals — such as Ramaswamy, DeSantis and former President Donald Trump — who question unchecked military and economic support for Ukraine.
“Think of what would happen if Republican appeasers succeed in rallying support for Ukraine,” Pence said. “What message would it send to China other than a giant, flashing green light for the Chinese invasion of Taiwan.”
China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military activities near the island in recent years in response to what Beijing calls “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States.
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