Sep 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Ramaswamy attacked for TikTok account on debate stage

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, from left, Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, and Vivek Ramaswamy, chairman and co-founder of Strive Asset Management and 2024 Republican presidential candidate on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Several GOP presidential candidates took aim at China and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy on Wednesday for his previous work with Chinese companies and his presence on TikTok.

Why it matters: The debate again showed how hawkish China policy has become synonymous with the GOP and how politically dangerous it is for any candidate who doesn't take a hard line on China.

Driving the news: Ramaswamy's efforts to talk about China resulted in an attack from nearly every other candidate on the debate stage, with Florida Senator Tim Scott accusing him of doing business with the Chinese Communist Party.

  • Ramaswamy was the CEO of the biotech company Roivant, which had several subsidiaries in China and business dealings with Chinese companies connected to members of the communist party.
  • Ramaswamy pushed back on Scott's statement, saying his company pulled out of China. He later called for the U.S. to become economically independent from China.
  • Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley also attacked Ramaswamy for being the only GOP candidate on TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance.
  • "Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber," Haley told Ramaswamy, adding he can't be trusted because of his business dealings with China.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine war was the center of several questions for the GOP candidates during Wednesday's debate.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refrained from criticizing Russia, called for ending the war, and stressed he wouldn't give a "blank check" to Ukraine.
  • The Florida governor claimed European countries should be giving more assistance to Ukraine even though they are currently giving more aid to Kyiv than the U.S. in relative terms.
  • Ramaswamy said that while Putin is a dictator, the Ukrainians are not necessarily the good guys.
  • Other candidates like Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke in favor of continuing U.S. support to Ukraine.
  • "If we give parts of Ukraine to Putin the war won't stop – Poland will be next," Christie said.
Go deeper