GOP Senate candidate McCormick unveils China policy during Philadelphia speech

McCormick said Democrats ‘have gotten China wrong for more than two decades’

Getty Images/Jeff Swenson

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick unveiled a six-point plan during an appearance in Philadelphia on Thursday that he says is aimed at “shaking up” the relationship between China and the U.S.

“To put it bluntly, China poses the greatest threat to our security and our well-being since the end of World War II,” McCormick said. “And our nation’s leaders, including career politicians like Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey, have gotten China wrong for more than two decades.”

McCormick’s plan, the “Keystone Agenda to Reclaim America,” would seek to reduce the amount of fentanyl entering the U.S. from China, remove China from the World Health Organization and ban “strategic purchases” of land in the U.S. by the Chinese Communist Party.

He said he also wants to “revoke the benefits” of permanent normal trade relations with China, make the U.S. “less dependent” on lithium batteries and solar panels exported from China and “end any United States investment or trade” that supports the Chinese Communist Party’s “national security state.”

China has already emerged as one of the key issues in the 2024 race between McCormick and his opponent, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. Casey and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party have blasted McCormick for his previous business relationship with China as the CEO of Bridgewater Associates. 

Earlier this week, Casey pushed for a review of U.S. investments in China that would require U.S. corporations and other entities to notify the secretary of the Treasury prior to deals involving AI, advanced semiconductors, satellite communications and quantum computing. He chastised House Republicans for preventing the bill from passing “at the eleventh hour.”

McCormick talked about his previous relationship with China during his 22-minute speech, saying he’s been there on multiple occasions including as a senior government official and businessman. 

“He’s gonna say Bridgewater did business in China. And it did,” McCormick said of Casey. “These attacks are predictable.”

“Sadly, the place I traveled – the China that many visitors saw two decades ago – is a distant memory,” McCormick added.

He said his previous experience makes him “uniquely equipped to tackle” the U.S. relationship with China. 

A group protesting outside the Independence Visitor Center, where McCormick spoke, displayed a billboard with a 2007 quote from McCormick: “When China succeeds, the United States succeeds.” 

Mark Esper, a Uniontown native and the U.S. Secretary of Defense under former President Donald Trump, introduced McCormick at the Thursday afternoon event.

Esper recalled their decades-long professional and personal friendship, as well as their shared inspiration from Ronald Reagan. 

“I am a clear-eyed, unabashed, unapologetic China hawk,” Esper said. “Guess what? So is Dave McCormick.”

Esper and McCormick are both graduates of West Point and served in the Gulf War. 

The event in Philadelphia on Thursday was the first in a series for McCormick’s “America’s Future Tour.” 

Prior to the event, Jeff Bartos, a Montgomery County businessman and previous GOP candidate for lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate, told the Capital-Star he sees the economy as the No. 1 issue of 2024, but said the topic of China is a “critical issue” in the race. 

“Pennsylvania can be the fastest-growing, most dynamic state in the nation … but we need to recognize that the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China are not our friends,” Bartos said.

John Fetterman won each of the densely populated Philadelphia collar counties in 2022 over Republican Mehmet Oz by at least 7 points, while Casey carried each of those counties by at least 14 points over Republican Congressman Lou Barletta in 2018. McCormick lost the 2022 GOP nomination to Oz by less than 1,000 votes. 

In 2016, GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey won Bucks County by 5 points and Chester County by 2 points over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty. 

Bartos said he believes McCormick’s background in business, coupled with his military service and rural upbringing, makes him a strong candidate in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and “well-positioned to win the collar counties.” 

McCormick is likely to face Casey in the 2024 general election, with neither candidate currently facing a credible primary challenger.

John Cole is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story originally appeared.

NEXT STORY: Penn President Liz Magill facing growing calls to resign