The US cannot “get tough” with China because it depends on it for a modern way of life, Indian-American Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has said, asserting that Washington needs to declare economic independence from Beijing.
The 38-year-old multimillionaire biotech entrepreneur made the comment on Wednesday during the Republican Party’s third presidential debate in Miami, Florida.
Indian-American presidential candidate Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott participated in the debate. Former US president Donald Trump, who is leading the race, did not participate in the debate again.
“Here’s why we can’t get tough with China. It’s because we depend on them for our modern way of life. And we have to declare economic independence from our enemy,” Mr Ramaswamy said.
“That’s the Declaration of Independence that Thomas Jefferson, at the age of 33, would have signed. And today, if he were alive, that’s the Declaration of Independence that I will sign as the next president,” Mr Ramaswamy said in response to a question.
Underlining that the actual defence industrial base of the US depends on China for the supply chain, he said, “For the F-35 jets, for the ships that we’re building. Think about this. Why are we stockpiling that if it isn’t to actually be strong against our enemy, China? We depend on them for that. Just like we depend on them for pharmaceuticals. Just like we depend on them for semiconductors.”
“We need politicians who are independent of the forces that increase our dependence on China. My message to Xi Jinping is this, you are done buying land in this country. You will not donate to universities in this country. US businesses won’t expand into the Chinese market until you play by the same set of rules,” Mr Ramaswamy said.
He added that the US needs to increase its naval capacity by at least 20 per cent over the next several years.
“I think we have to, at minimum, be able to meet our AUKUS agreement standards. Right now, we are at risk of not even being able to meet our AUKUS standards with Australia and the UK. So, what we need to do is have a plan that reverses the trajectory of the divest to invest programme by 20 per cent over the next three years,” he said.
The AUKUS pact is a trilateral alliance between the UK, the US and Australia, seen as a counter to an aggressive China in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.
During the debate, Mr Ramaswamy alleged that fellow Indian-American Republican presidential candidate Haley called China a great friend of America while serving as the US Ambassador to the UN, “When she was UN Ambassador, called them literally her words, not my, ‘Our great friend’. You can’t be fair-weather fans of the right policy. Get to the root cause. Even US companies in Silicon Valley are regularly doing it,” he said.
Haley denied the allegations.
“When he talks about me praising China, he doesn’t know the fact that the reason China was praised was because I negotiated with China and Russia the largest set of sanctions against North Korea in a generation,” she said.
“That is literally the reason North Korea stopped testing ballistic missiles. So, I said China did good on their part. That was a negotiation you could never — had fought against China my entire career at the United Nations,” she added.
“You’ve brought them to South Carolina. … Look at the actual hard facts. You brought them to this country,” Mr Ramaswamy alleged.
“..By making sure no one could get any agency heads in the UN. I did it by making sure that we called them out on human rights. I did it by making sure that we held them accountable for everything that they did. That’s the reason we got out of the Human Rights Council. That’s the reason we called them out,” Ms Haley said in defence.
The two Indian Americans clashed on the debate stage multiple times. It started when Ramaswamy called Haley, former US vice president Dick Cheney in three-inch heels. The former South Carolina governor was the only woman on the debate stage.
“You have the likes of Nikki Haley, who stepped down from her time at the UN, bankrupt or in debt is — was her family. Then, she becomes a military contractor. She joins the board of Boeing and otherwise. And is now a multi-millionaire. So I think that that’s wrong when Republicans do it or Democrats do it. That’s the choice we face,” he alleged.
“Do you want a leader from a different generation who’s going to put this country first, or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?” Mr Ramaswamy said.
Haley blasted Mr Ramaswamy when her turn came soon thereafter.
“Yes. I’d first like to say they’re five-inch heels, and I don’t wear them unless you can run in them. The second thing that I will say is: that I wear heels. They’re not for a fashion statement. They’re for ammunition,” Ms Haley said amidst cheers from the audience.
She also blasted Mr Ramaswamy, asking him not to bring her daughters into the debate.
Mr Ramaswamy mentioned her daughter during the portion of the debate that discussed the ban on TikTok.
“I want to laugh at why Nikki Haley didn’t answer your question, which is about looking at families in the eye. In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok, while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So, you might want to take care of your family first before preaching to anybody else,” he said.
“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” a furious Ms Haley responded.
“Adult daughter,” Ramaswamy said as he was booed. “And that’s actually the point. You have her supporters propping her up. That’s fine. Here is the truth,” he said.
Talking about the multiple bills signed in August by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis prohibiting Chinese citizens from purchasing land in the state, Mr Ramaswamy said, “Bring in the CCP to South Carolina. What he left out though, Ron, and to be honest about it, there was a lobbying-based exemption in that bill that allowed Chinese nationals to buy land within a 20-mile radius of a military base lobbied for by one of your donors. So, I think we have to call a spade a spade.” Ramaswamy also asserted that his administration would ban any US company from transferring data to the Chinese.
“Here is a story most people don’t know. Airbnb hands over US user data to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Now, that’s a US-owned company. So, this is the problem when you have Republicans that temporarily go the way the winds blow, and now it’s popular to talk tough on China,” he said.
Speaking about Tiktok, he said, “Cut the virtue signalling. The fact of the matter is Democrats are on TikTok today. The only person, one of the few people who is putting up content the way the actual algorithms work, speaking for pro-Israel views or others, is me.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)