A day after losing Wisconsin, White House hopeful Hillary Clinton has unleashed a blistering critique of China while campaigning in blue-collar Pennsylvania, warning the Asian giant must “toe the line” if she becomes President, while her rival, Bernie Sanders, questioned whether she was “qualified” or not to be in the White House.
The eastern US state, where organised labour is an influential force, hosts its presidential primaries on April 26.
“China illegally dumps cheap products in our markets, steals our trade secrets, plays games with their currency, gives unfair advantages to state-owned-enterprises and discriminates against American companies,” she said on Wednesday.
“We will throw the book at China for their illegal actions.”
Clinton’s remarks, delivered to a state AFL-CIO union convention in Philadelphia, were among her most forceful campaign trail comments about Beijing.
Bernie Sanders questioned whether Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is “qualified” to be president after she spent much of the day criticizing his record and his preparedness for the job.
Sanders also said on Wednesday that Clinton is not qualified because of her vote on the war in Iraq and her support for trade agreements that he says are harmful to American workers.
“She has been saying lately that she thinks that I am quote unquote not qualified to be president,” Sanders told a crowd of more than 10,000 people at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. “I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds.”
It’s the latest salvo in a war of words that has gotten increasingly heated as underdog Sanders has gained ground on front-runner Clinton, capped by the Vermont senator’s victory in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary.
Clinton, seeking to regain her footing in the nomination race after losing six of the last seven state contests, pointed to her experience as secretary of state as a measure of her ability to influence Beijing.
“I’ve gone toe to toe with China’s top leaders on some of the toughest issues we face, from cyber attacks to human rights to climate change to trade and more,” she said.
“I know how they operate, and they know if I’m president, they’re going to have to toe the line, because we’re going to once and for all get fair treatment, or they’re not going to get access to our markets.”
At one point she refered to China as “the biggest abuser of global trade.”
Clinton defeated Barack Obama in Pennsylvania in their 2008 primary battle, thanks to support from union Democrats, and she aims to repeat her victory in three weeks’ time.
But she will need to reassure workers who have criticized her late opposition to the trans-Pacific trade deal recently signed by President Barack Obama. Sanders has steadfastly opposed the agreement from Day One.
“My message to every worker in Pennsylvania, every worker across America is this: I will stand with you, I will have your back and I will stop dead in its tracks any trade deal that hurts America,” Clinton said.
She also criticisd Sanders, insisting that “in a number of important areas, he doesn’t have a plan at all.”
Clinton leads Sanders by 52.7% to 35% in a RealClearPolitics poll average, although the latest poll, released by Quinnipiac University on Tuesday, puts Clinton just six points ahead.