VP Debate 2020: Pence and Harris attack each other over America's relationship with China but fail to impress

To the disappointment of several viewers, neither the VP nor his challenger came up with responses worth remembering


                            VP Debate 2020: Pence and Harris attack each other over America's relationship with China but fail to impress
Kamala Harris and Mike Pence (Getty Images)
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The vice-presidential candidates for the November 3 election — Mike Pence and Kamala Harris — met for their only debate ahead of the big battle at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, October 7, where the moderator made them respond to a variety of questions.

One of the critical questions that moderator Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA Today, placed before the two candidates was about America's fundamental relationship with China — something which is not limited to any particular area but will potentially define the framework of the international order in the days ahead. To the disappointment of several viewers, neither the VP nor his challenger came up with responses worth remembering. 

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Former VP Joe Biden with former president Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry in a meeting with President XI Jinping China an official State Visit at the White House September 25, 2015, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

"How would you describe our fundamental relationship with China?" Page asked the two contestants. Pence, a former Indian governor, used the first of his two minute time to talk about the Nafta and climate change. In the concluding minute, the 61-year-old took the familiar course of bashing China over the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

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His opponent, on the other hand, started by defending the previous Barack Obama administration’s record vis-a-vis Beijing. The senator then suggested that if a Biden administration comes to power, it would better the economic relationship with the Asian power that has fast emerged to challenge America on the world stage. However, unlike Pence, the 55-year-old did not give her explanation against the broader international context in which the current US-China relations are unfolding. 

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Harris and Pence attack each other over China

However, no matter what the respective contestants said over the China issue, they did not waste the opportunity to attack each other. Harris, for instance, taunted Pence saying the Trump administration ended second best in its trade war with China which is going on for some time and that proved costly for the US in terms of loss of a few thousand jobs.

She said the trade war only forced the US to shell out thousands of dollars more to get goods and that by the end of his term, Trump would see more job losses than any other administration in history.

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President Donald Trump with his counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on November 9, 2017. (Getty Images)

"The vice president earlier said it's what he thinks as an accomplishment that the President’s trade war with China. You lost that trade war. You lost it. What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China, America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs," Harris said.

Pence hit back at his Democratic opponent immediately saying Biden did not fight against China and even accused him of being a cheerleader for the Chinese Communist Party over the decades. The Trump campaign has in the past alleged that Biden went soft with China while vilifying Beijing over the outbreak of the pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 people in the US besides affecting more than 7.5 million.

"Lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it. Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades. And Sen. Harris, you’re entitled to your opinion, not your own facts," Pence said. 

The duo also debated other aspects of the US foreign policy under Trump. Harris alleged that by following a unilateral foreign policy, the president has betrayed America's allies and made the country less safe and isolated but Pence nullified the claim saying Trump showed what it meant to be loyal and keeping promises through his relationships with Israel — one of Washington’s time-tested allies in the Middle East.

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