Ron DeSantis Promises to Use a “Hard Power” Against China in Recent Republican Party Debate

During the second Republican presidential debate on September 27, 2023 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared that he would take a “hard power” approach to China.

DeSantis expressed his concern about China’s growing military and economic activities in Latin America. Additionally, he praised controversial policies that his state government implemented to stop Chinese nationals from purchasing land. He declared that these policies should be applied at the national level.

As the debate progressed, DeSantis proclaimed that  the US has effectively “subcontracted out” too many vital industries to China. The Florida Governor has described China as America’s main adversary “by a country mile.” 

Other candidates such as former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley attacked the Chinese government for its connection to social media app TikTok. She specifically criticized the app for being too addictive. On top of that, Haley declared that the next president of the United States should do more to put pressure on China to address the fentanyl crisis. Moreover, she criticized former President Donald Trump for not doing enough to address this issue.

If we’re being honest here, most Republicans’ agenda for China will inevitably lead to a great power conflict with it. Trump at least had a rational nationalist program of using tariffs to get the US to land a more favorable trade relationship with China.

A true America First approach to the China question would be one of economic decoupling and immigration restriction, not of military confrontation. If we want to avoid the cataclysmic prospect of thermonuclear war, realism and restraint should be the US’s North Star for foreign policy.

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