Many Republican candidates bashing themselves for their ties to China

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The ad strikes an ominous tone in a familiar voice: Donald Trump inveighs against American companies that send their jobs to China.

But the publicity comes from Trump nemesis and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who is campaigning against David Perdue – the candidate the former president picked to win in Georgia. The spot accuses Perdue of outsourcing jobs to the private sector as a CEO before becoming a Senate candidate in Georgia.

“We tested a number of hits, and this was the best sounding board – outsourcing to China,” said Cody Hall, Kemp’s communications director. In Georgia, a state more than 7,000 miles from China, he was the centerpiece of Kemp’s campaign in paid advertising and messaging.

Ties to China – however false, misleading or hyperbolic – have become an albatross for GOP candidates across the country in the 2022 races and a lively presence in campaign stops and ads, much of the Republican Party with increasingly negative views on China after two years. of the coronavirus and Trump’s rhetoric against the country.

Campaign strategists and candidates in a number of states said tying candidates to China has become a main attack in a GOP primary — with candidates seeking to differentiate themselves as they largely follow the Trump’s political agenda.

In Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz repeatedly hit out at his nemesis David McCormick for making business deals with China as hedge fund CEO, while McCormick and his allies attacked Oz for making money from TV of the Chinese state and used Chinese products for its businesses.

When Trump slammed McCormick last Friday night at a rainy rally, he ridiculed him for being too nice to China in one of his most searing attacks.

The attacks spanned from Texas to Ohio and Missouri, with candidates making aggressive and sometimes misleading claims about their opponents’ views on China.

“There are remnants of China in all of these primaries,” said Tony Fabrizio, a prominent pollster who works for Trump and has worked in many contested primaries this year.

“If you pamper China, or if you’re soft on China, that doesn’t make you America first and not so tough,” Fabrizio said. “Being labeled as soft on China is not a good thing. Trump focused and catalyzed some of it. But China has been seen as the world’s main enemy for at least a decade or more.”

In a poll conducted by Fabrizio earlier this year, he said, Republican voters overwhelmingly viewed China as a national security threat more than Russia, even as Russia launched missiles at Ukraine and killed thousands of civilians in a brutal ground war.

A March poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 75% of Republicans said China’s development as a global power posed a “critical threat” to US interests, up from 67% in 2020 and 42 % in 2018.

That’s a change from decades past, when many Republicans adopted a more conciliatory tone toward China. Michael Pillsbury, one of Trump’s informal advisers who was to be his ambassador to the country if he won a second term, said it used to be different.

“It’s something pretty new — Republicans used to be about party and free trade,” Pillsbury said. “And I remember during President Trump’s first considerations — imposing heavy tariffs on China — there were voices within the White House and within the party that this went against Republican traditions.

The current mood toward China, Pillsbury said, is gloomier than it has been in decades in the United States.

Pillsbury and others note that many of the candidates launching the attacks have not presented succinct political positions on what they would do differently, and that some of the attacks appear to be fearmongering.

There is a confluence of reasons why Republicans have stepped up their anti-China rhetoric, according to strategists and candidates. Party supporters have listened to Trump bashing China throughout his tenure, even as he struck a more conciliatory tone behind the scenes. Some Rust Belt states are deeply frustrated that Chinese imports have cost American jobs and deflated cities. And there is palpable and widespread blame on China for the coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“The share of commonalities through the MAGA database is tough on China,” said Jason Miller, a longtime Trump adviser. “It’s woven into the business message, but it’s more that Republicans see China as an existential threat to all of Western civilization.”

Trump’s team asked about various messages for his rallies last year and learned that the attack on China was among the most popular with his supporters. Trump has begun seeking reparations from China for the coronavirus, receiving loud cheers at his rallies – with no enforcement mechanism planned.

In addition to Trump, who is considering a re-election bid, other potential 2024 presidential candidates have focused on China, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others offering harsh rhetoric against the country. . This has been much less of an issue in the Democratic primaries.

In Pennsylvania, McCormick’s work at the Bridgewater hedge fund — and his extensive business connections with China — were a key part of Oz’s message. Prior to running for the Senate, McCormick’s Bridgewater “raised the equivalent of $1.25 billion for its third China investment fund,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Let’s go to China!” two men paid by the Oz campaign, wearing vests and calling themselves “finance bros”, cheered in an advertisement. They called it the “Wolf of Westport,” a reference to the affluent Connecticut town near New York where Bridgewater is headquartered.

McCormick was frequently criticized by the Oz campaign for his 2007 remarks about China while he was a senior Treasury Department official in the George W. Bush administration. “When China succeeds, the United States succeeds,” McCormick said, speaking in Beijing.

Some of McCormick’s allies said they saw his trade ties to China as his biggest disadvantage when he started the campaign; his first decision was to write an op-ed for Fox Business defending himself and promising to be more aggressive towards China.

“That’s why I think it’s high time for American leaders to confront head-on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which poses the greatest threat to the economy and national security of the United States.” , wrote McCormick.

McCormick’s campaign spokesman, Jess Szymanski, said in a statement, “Dave’s proven track record will make him one of the strongest senators in Washington to hold China accountable and restore pro-China policies. growth, America first.”

For their part, McCormick and his team have put together an extensive book of research attacking Oz for certain for its investments in China. For example, Oz made money when his TV show was syndicated in the country and accepted Chinese state television rules for the show to air.

“The Dr. Oz show has aired in more than 100 countries for more than 13 years to provide life-changing health information to millions of people around the world,” said spokesperson Brittany Yanick. of Oz. “Dr. Oz’s position on China is unequivocal – the Chinese Communist Party’s malicious actions both in its own country and on the world stage are reprehensible.

And when Oz started a bedding business, he contracted with a company in China to make many of his products. Pillows, mattresses and mattress toppers, among others, were all made in the country thanks to a partnership with the Malouf company. This earned Oz between $1 million and $5 million, according to a financial statement he filed.

The Oz campaign defended items made in China, saying it was difficult to find materials to make such products in the United States.


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