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(NewsNation) — Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sparred over China at the fourth Republican debate, with each saying the other wasn’t tough enough on the country and had allowed the communist government’s agents to infiltrate America.
A recent NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll found that almost 43% of the Americans surveyed think China is currently the biggest threat to the United States.
Once the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under then-President Donald Trump, Haley criticized her former boss, saying that though he was good on trade, “that’s all he was with China.”
“He allowed fentanyl to continue to come over,” Haley said. “He would give them technology that would build up their military and hurt us. He allowed the Chinese infiltration for them to buy up farmland, to put money in our universities and to continue to do things that were harmful for America.”
DeSantis shot back, saying it was “rich” for Haley to say this, claiming that when she was governor, she brought the Chinese Communist Party into South Carolina.
“She wrote a love letter to the Chinese ambassador saying how great a friend China is,” DeSantis said. “She’s been very weak on China. Her donors, these Wall Street liberal donors, they make money in China, they are not going to let her be tough on China.”
Responding to DeSantis, Haley said he’s mad because “those Wall Street donors used to support him and now they support me.”
She pointed to DeSantis taking money, and holding a rally with, iGas USA, a refrigerant company from Tampa, Florida with backing from China. The Miami Herald reported that DeSantis has had years of financial support from the company, and took a check for more than $11,000 from iGas’ CEO this past August.
DeSantis, meanwhile, said he banned China from buying land in the state of Florida, and also prohibited Confucius Institutes on college campuses. Confucius Institutes are nonprofit educational institutions funded by the Chinese government. DeSantis, in a September news release, referred to them as “propaganda centers” for the CCP.
Even “liberal media groups,” DeSantis said, “could not find one instance of me recruiting a Chinese business coming to Florida because we never recruited any Chinese businesses.”