House

Nikki Haley warns Republicans on China: 'If they take Taiwan, it's all over'

Potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley sounded the alarm to House conservatives Wednesday that China is hell-bent on world domination - and that Taiwan is ground zero.

In a closed-door meeting with members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), Haley, who served as former President Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, said that if China takes control of Taiwan, Beijing will be emboldened to seize other territories around the globe.

The U.S. must take stronger action against China, Haley said, starting with organizing a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing with allies like India, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Canada.

"The last Olympics that they had [in 2008] was their coming out. That's how they saw it. They were introducing themselves to the world. This next Olympics, if it goes unscathed, this is their way of showing that they are now the superpower of the world," Haley told nearly 70 GOP lawmakers in the basement of the Capitol. 

"And if we don't boycott, if we don't do something to really call them out, mark my words: Taiwan is next. And if they take Taiwan, it's all over, because they will think that gives them free rein to grab any territory, not in the region, but anywhere they want to go." 

She also blasted the joint statement from President Biden and other Group of Seven leaders this week calling out China's human-rights abuses as extremely weak, arguing the G-7 instead should have established that Taiwan - the East Asian island whose autonomy is in constant dispute - is a "sovereign country."

The 49-year-old Haley, a former South Carolina governor and daughter of Indian immigrants, was just the latest in a parade of possible 2024 GOP candidates to make the trek to Capitol Hill for an informal audition before the RSC, which is led by Chairman Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and is the largest caucus of Republicans in Congress.     

Earlier this year, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) spoke to the group about the surge of migrants at the border. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) urged Republicans to get tougher on Biden. And former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently joined the RSC at a news conference to roll out an Iran sanctions bill. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also have appeared before the group.

Most of these ambitious pols, including Haley, have said they won't run if Trump seeks a rematch with Biden in 2024. Still, Haley hasn't been shy about criticizing her former boss as he made baseless claims that the election last fall was stolen.

Days after the Jan. 6 attack, Haley called Trump "badly wrong" for firing up his supporters to march on the Capitol and warned that his efforts to overturn Biden's election victory "will be judged harshly by history."

But at Wednesday's RSC lunch, featuring Chick-fil-A sandwiches and salad, not a single Republican challenged Haley over her criticism of the 45th president. In fact, Trump rarely came up during Haley's roughly 20-minute talk or the question-and-answer period that followed.

During the Q&A, Haley ripped into her successor at the U.N., Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is Black, for giving a speech in April arguing that America's "original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles."

"I had always proudly never spoken against a successor, in the governor's office and as ambassador, but I did speak out against [Thomas-Greenfield] because I was sick to my stomach when I saw her give that speech that said America is a racist country," said Haley, fresh off a trip to Israel.

"Because what she may not realize, in one speech, she weakened us in the eyes of the world. They loved that; they loved that she did that. And so, I just have to say that that was a real disappointment."

As a former governor, Haley pivoted from threats abroad to domestic policy issues with ease. She sounded the alarm about America's ballooning national debt, even though it rose by nearly $8 trillion during Trump's four years in office. The mother of two also warned that the COVID-19 pandemic that forced students to learn virtually may have cost them two years' worth of education.

And Haley said Republicans should not even flirt with embracing socialism.  

"I will tell you, if you open that door, there's no closing it," she said. "I know that there's conversations within the Republican Party that maybe we should start to lean into that. Don't do it, because once you start giving government control ... you can't get it back."

But China remained the top issue on her mind, and on the minds of her fellow Republicans in the room. Haley hammered home that China remained an existential threat to the U.S. and democracies around the world and that government officials there should never be trusted.

Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, building bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure projects in dozens of nations, is nothing more than a ploy to gain influence and power around the world, Haley said.

"What they're doing is they're running out the deck for such a time as this and then waiting for times like COVID. And they say, 'You can't pay it? Now give me your power grid. Now give me your military installation. We want your port.' Now you look at that map - it will send a chill up your spine at what they're trying to do."

Haley also painted a haunting portrait of the war China is waging in cyberspace. Beijing, she said, just adopted a data-security measure that states that all private data is now a national asset.

"Think about the health data they have. Think about the financial data they have. Think about the surveillance actions they have on all of us," Haley said. "Now think that that's in the hands of the Chinese military. The way President Xi sees it is, whoever owns the data rules the world."

Haley was asked by one GOP lawmaker how the U.S. could respond to China when it sells pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and so many cheap goods to America. 

"Don't lead with fear. Don't be scared of China. Go after them strong. Go after them aggressively," the former ambassador said. "They can't cut us off any more than we can cut them off." 

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