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Nikki Haley spikes the gauntlet at the feet of China — and the 2024 GOP field

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As we hold our breath while watching what’s happening with Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, now is a perfect time to remember that political leaders with a true understanding of foreign policy could be invaluable for the United States going forward.

Nikki Haley, former United Nations (U.N.) ambassador and former South Carolina governor, just took a moment to remind anyone who wasn’t paying attention that her personal understanding of foreign policy is deep. During a recent interview with RealClearPolitics, Haley explained why she refused to watch the Winter Olympics hosted by China.

“I can’t get the images out of my head of people on their knees blindfolded, knowing what’s about to happen to them,” she said of an image of imprisoned Uyghurs with their heads shaved and hands tied behind their backs awaiting a forced transfer at a train station in Xinjiang. “I can’t imagine in any way supporting that or propping up China.”

She closed the interview by saying, “My hope and prayer is that Americans realize that China is the one that gave us COVID. China is the one stealing intellectual property. China is the one committing human rights abuses. And China is the one that has become a surveillance state that is now going to start dictating to our American companies, which is why they’ve started to leave.  At some point, we need to understand it is time to move on from China.”  

That’s political dynamite.

Make no mistake: Haley threw down the gauntlet at the feet of China’s leadership — as well as at the feet of those who might run for the Republican nomination for U.S. president in 2024.   

Now, if former President Trump doesn’t run — and I have said that I don’t believe he will — some have assumed that a logical GOP nominee would be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Many have speculated, myself included, that DeSantis might stick with a number of Trump policies that were popular with the GOP base while carrying none of Trump’s bullying, egotistical ways.

True enough, but politics, like the world and unstable, power-hungry leaders, is never static. Political power can flip in an instant. One wrong interpretation, missed signal or ignorant move can be disastrous for a political career. The tragic gold standard for that truism is this: Seemingly unconnected or “minor” incidents led to the outbreak of World War I.     

While it’s safe to say that most Republicans and a number of independents have little or no faith in the Biden administration to carry out its foreign policy obligations in the best interests of the United States, it also would be fair to speculate that after the administration’s abject and embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan, combined with its continuing missteps touching upon the now worrisome situation in Ukraine, that a number of Democrats are also focused on the critical need to have a command of foreign policy.     

During her time as U.N. ambassador and since, Haley has proved in multiple forums that she has a real understanding of that ever-changing arena and is not afraid to call out any nation in the defense of her own.

As we have seen over the past couple of years, it is easy for politicians, academics and the news media to become overly focused on domestic issues or “emergencies” while giving the rest of the world — most especially our potential adversaries — little or no attention. And now, in the blink of an eye, Russia and Ukraine are on the brink of something truly terrifying, and we are shocked into remembering there is a world out there and what happens in it can have the most dire consequences for the United States.

Haley’s resolute calling out of the People’s Republic of China — and those in America who coddle the regime for profit, connections and power — serves as a forceful shot across the bow of the potential DeSantis campaign and those of any other 2024 contenders.     

The world just flipped. The geopolitical situation tilts in a truly precarious way, and having a command of foreign policy once again is paramount for any U.S. leader. By denouncing China’s conduct, Haley has reminded everyone of her strength and of the foreign policy weaknesses of others.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Tags 2024 elections China China human rights violations Donald Trump Nikki Haley Persecution of Uyghurs Ron DeSantis

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