Damaging anti-China policies hold no promise for Republican 2024 hopefuls

Faced with accusations that Washington ignored Pyongyang’s legitimate interests, she said the Trump administration would be willing to meet North Korean officials to talk bilaterally, but not before “CVID”.

However, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un got what he wanted, because he understood Trump’s psyche – all that was required to go around Haley was a few “love letters” to Trump, who has never met an authoritarian leader he didn’t like.
But Haley has also not always been consistent. She condemned Trump for encouraging the mob that attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, but later declared that conservatives “need him”. She vowed not to run against him in 2024 but then jumped into the race.

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Why Kim Jong-un is talking to Donald Trump

Why Kim Jong-un is talking to Donald Trump

Her inconsistencies, though, don’t rise to Trump’s level. His base never punishes him for contradictions, such as his appointment of US Supreme Court justices who took away the federal right to an abortion, then calling their ruling a mistake when it became clear how unpopular that decision was.

Haley, meanwhile, has been a consistent supporter of aid to Ukraine and laissez-faire economic freedoms. Her union-busting track record going back more than a decade shows her closer connection to the Republican Party that existed before Trump – the one that countered many of the world’s autocrats and faced down the Soviet Union.

Whether these instincts will continue to guide her in the current political environment isn’t clear. She has never fawned over President Xi Jinping the way Trump often did.
For the moment, she’s taking the same tack as the rest of the party: go hard against China rhetorically to deflect attention from the GOP’s embrace of authoritarian, anti-democratic tactics.
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speak simultaneously at the third Republican candidates’ US presidential debate in Miami, Florida, on November 8, 2023. Photo: Reuters
As part of her efforts to pull ahead of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as Trump’s most viable competition in the Republican primaries, she has run a series of attack ads that portray DeSantis as too soft on China. Yes, the same DeSantis who signed a bill this year that prohibits Chinese citizens from owning any property in Florida, including residential, unless they are US permanent residents or hold a non-tourist US visa.

While it’s not yet clear what effect this is having on Florida, where property accounts for a substantial part of the economy, Bloomberg reports that a group representing companies including Blackstone and home builder Lennar Corporation is pushing to have the law rolled back.

If these companies are willing to bear the potential reputational risk involved in fighting anti-China measures, we can assume the law is threatening business prospects. This should be a wake-up call for Republicans who think a full decoupling from China is a winning strategy.
The US government has mobilised its most important departments in its efforts to halt Chinese espionage. This programme is increasingly working with the private sector and authorities at state and local levels towards this end.

Spy games: why the US-China cold war is heating up in public

It’s a necessary effort, as the many federal convictions of Chinese spies in the US shows. Politicians should be cooperating with this effort instead of competing through laws such as DeSantis’, which like Trump’s tariffs have only served to block business and add costs in an already-inflationary environment.
Governors of every state should welcome capital that is abandoning China. They should work with authorities whose job it is to determine what is a national security risk.
US voters are punishing President Joe Biden with low approval ratings. This is partly down to perceptions that his administration has not helped them economically, even though the economy has defied expectations of rising unemployment and recession.

That should be a warning to Haley and any other candidates willing to enact damaging policies that will haunt them once in office just to score political points in an election year. Hopefully, she will understand that CVID for North Korea makes more sense than a complete ban on Chinese capital.

Robert Delaney is the Post’s North America bureau chief

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