Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis duked it out again over who was weaker on China as governor during the fourth Republican presidential debate earlier this week.

Haley, who touted being tough on China early on in the debate, later called for an end to normal trade relations with China until they stop “murdering Americans with fentanyl.” She then said former President Donald Trump was good on trade with China, but criticized him for not doing more.

DeSantis interjected, calling that her remarks, “rich.”

“This is rich because when she was governor of South Carolina, she was the number-one ranked governor of bringing the CCP into her state,” adding:

She wrote a love letter to the Chinese ambassador saying how great a friend China is. You can look at it. We put it on our website, There’s also a video of her as governor standing in front of a Chinese flag with a Chinese business saying that she now works for them, talking about this Chinese company. So, she’s been very weak on China. Now, here’s the problem, the rhetoric is different, but… One, her donors, these Wall Street liberal donors, they make money in China. They are not going to let her be tough on China, and she will cave to the donor. She will not stand up for you.

Haley then fired back at DeSantis, saying he was mad that Wall Street donors used to support him and now they supported her. She then hammered him over his own record on China, citing a recent report by the Miami Herald that said a refrigerant company in Tampa backed by China has donated $340,000 to DeSantis and committees affiliated with him.

DeSantis repeatedly responded, “It’s an American company.” However, the report said corporate records and court filings showed that a Chinese government-controlled company owned about a third of the refrigerant company, called iGas USA.

Haley then brought up another recent report by the Washington Examiner that said the DeSantis administration provided $90,000 in tax relief to a Chinese company named JinkoSolar in 2020 through his urban job tax credit program. Florida Department of Commerce spokeswoman Rose Hebert said it was a continuation from the previous governor.

DeSantis pointed to a series of bills he signed in May 2023 to limit Chinese influence from spreading in Florida, saying, “I banned China from buying land in the state of Florida.”

“I ejected the Confucius Institute. Nikki Haley brought Confucius Institutes to the universities in South Carolina,” he said. Haley responded, “That’s not true, before adding, “You have a record of lying.”

Undergraduate student Moe Lewis, left, shows her watercolor painting of peony leaves at a traditional Chinese painting class at the Confucius Institute at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 2, 2018. U.S. lawmakers are pushing for tighter regulation or even closure of the more than a hundred Chinese Confucius Institutes set up on campuses across America. (Matthew Pennington/AP)

DeSantis claimed that liberal media groups could not find one instance of him recruiting a Chinese business to Florida, before he was cut off by a debate moderator.

Later in the debate, DeSantis did not say he would send U.S. troops if China invaded Taiwan, but said the U.S. would be able to deter that from happening in the first place.

“Taiwan’s an ally. We have longstanding American policy, and you know how that’s done, and we will follow that,” he said, before touting Taiwan’s importance to America.

“Taiwan is important, not just because of semiconductors. It’s important because if China’s able to break out of this first island chain, they’re going to be able to dominate commerce in the entire Indo-Pacific. They will use that to export authoritarianism all around the world, including here in the United States,” he said.

He took another dig at Haley, saying that her campaign supporters “grovel to China.”:

Anytime something happens, they got to go do that. So, they already exert a huge amount of authority over this country. It will get a lot worse. So, deterring China’s ambitions is the number one national security task that I will do as president and we will succeed. The 21st century needs to be an American century. We cannot let it be a Chinese century.

Haley said the way to keep China from invading Taiwan is to “make sure that we win in Ukraine.”:

I mean, when it comes to China and Taiwan, the one way that we keep China from going into Taiwan is, one, make sure that we win in Ukraine, that we protect our friends, but also let China know that there’ll be hell to pay if they go into Taiwan. They need to know that there is going to be a force that’s going to go against them and they need to know it’s not just going to be the United States.

“That is why we need to build our partnerships with India, with South Korea, with Japan, with the Philippines, with Australia. We need to start pulling that alliance together,” she added.

She also said the U.S. needed to reduce its reliance on China for anything related to national security, adding, “which means let’s start focusing on doing deals with our friends now.”

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