Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis warned on Oct. 27 that China is "the key player" behind the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel.
Appearing at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, in conjunction with The Epoch Times, Mr. DeSantis struck a hawkish tone toward Beijing, calling it a “key player” behind the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza Strip.
"The CCP is keeping both Iran and Russia afloat financially," Mr. DeSantis said in his speech, using the acronym for the Chinese Communist Party. "China's purchasing massive amounts of Iranian oil on the black market, thereby enriching the mullahs and Russia is selling China gas and much, much more. And that is bolstering Russia's war machine."
Mr. DeSantis went on to say that the protracted conflict between Ukraine and Russia since February 2022 "will ultimately benefit China because it will distract America and it will deplete our already dwindling Western weapons and ammunition stockpiles."
And while the United States will support Israel in defending itself, he believes that China “like[s] the Hamas-Israel conflict.”
“Clearly the way the world has gone the last two years has benefits to China,” he said. “There’s no question.”
“The threat posed by the CCP requires our primary focus and attention right now. They are the first truly peer competitor that we have dealt with in our lifetimes."
The Biden administration has relaxed or failed to enforce sanctions on Iran, which has given drones to Russia and exports oil to China. Mr. DeSantis noted that Russia has been selling China gas and “much, much more.”
He blamed “bad decisions made by America's ruling class” for the economic leverage China now has over the U.S. economy, noting that the United States had given China most-favored-nation trading status and allowed Beijing to be part of the World Trade Organization.
"And China has grand ambitions. They seek to be the dominant power in the entire world and they are marshaling all their society to be able to achieve that objective," he said. "So this is a formidable threat and it requires a whole-of-society approach."
He warned that “a world that's dominated by CCP will see them export their authoritarian vision all across the world.”
“This will be a world marked by internet policing, artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and social credit scores. It will end up creating a global dystopia and this is a regime that you do not want to have control or influence over our society,” he said, comparing the China threat to the Soviet Union's effort to spread communism worldwide.
The death toll that the Chinese regime is responsible for over its 70 some years of ruling “may very well be the highest of any government in history and numbers in the 10s of millions,” and the regime’s coverup of the pandemic, he added, has “put the rest of the world in great peril.”
Mr. DeSantis pledged to reorient U.S. foreign policy to prioritize the Indo-Pacific region to defend U.S. national security. Deterring CCP aggression, he said, requires the United States to project strength, which he detailed as bolstering the U.S. military to deny Chinese ambitions toward Taiwan, unleashing “America's full economic potential,” ensuring U.S. technological dominance, and closing border loopholes.
The Florida governor has maintained a tough-on-China record during his tenure, including by restricting Chinese purchases of property in the state and banning the controversial Beijing-funded Confucius Institute program from school campuses. In September, he directed the Florida Department of Education to cut state funding for four schools, citing their “direct ties to the CCP” that he said "constitute an imminent threat to the health, safety, and welfare of these school’s students and the public."
During a Q&A with Mr. DeSantis, Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts and Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek asked the governor if the issue of human rights should be tied to U.S. policy on trade with China.
"Traditionally, human rights have been linked to trade or trade has been linked to human rights," noted Mr. Jekielek, also the host of EpochTV's "American Thought Leaders."
"I think human rights is something that's good to stand for. What is the concrete interest? I do think it informs a concrete interest because this is one of the great weaknesses of the CCP," said Mr. DeSantis. "What they're trying to export around the world ultimately, is something that is going to suffocate human freedom. Their vision is a dystopian vision."
Mr. DeSantis' statements came hours before Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with President Joe Biden at the White House. The regime's top diplomat is in Washington for meetings with senior Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The administration has framed its relationship with the regime as one of "strategic competition" rather than directly adversarial.
Along with warning about China, other topics Mr. DeSantis highlighted in his major foreign policy speech include the latest Hamas-Israel conflict, which began on Oct. 7 and consisted of the biggest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, and border security amid the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
During his Q&A, Mr. DeSantis noted the trend of leftist governments in Latin America.
"We should have an updated version of the Monroe Doctrine for our own neighborhood in the 21st century," he said, referring to a late 19th-century principle that viewed attempts by Europe to intervene in the Americas as a potentially hostile act against the United States itself.
Mr. DeSantis emphasized the United States is now at “the decisive decade” to “arrest our country's decline” and tackle the challenge from China.
“At the end of the day, China has a lot of liabilities. They have a lot of weaknesses,” he said. “They want to maintain ironclad control over their population indefinitely,” but there are already cracks showing, and increasing, “because they are not doing what needs to be done for individuals to ultimately flourish.”