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Scott Walker: U.S. needs to be tough on China

Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks to attendees at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia August 8, 2015.

REUTERS/Tami Chappell

When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker delivers his foreign policy speech Friday in South Carolina, he'll be focusing largely on the fight against ISIS and the Iran nuclear deal he says he'll terminate on his first day as president. But he's also had China on his mind, he told CBS News Wednesday.

Walker has been thinking about how the U.S. should navigate its relationship with the emerging superpower, and he says that his plan has evolved and hardened over the past week, after the global market turbulence stemming from China's move to weaken the Yuan. Citing the Chinese cyber attacks and market manipulations, the crux of his argument is simple: the U.S. needs to be tough on China (which is, incidentally, the same argument that his opponent Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, will be making at around the same time, also in South Carolina).

Walker does not want to see any special treatment for China - cyber attacks the U.S. is tracing to the Chinese moved him to suggest that the Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit be cancelled (Rubio would downgrade the state visit to a working visit).

"You don't give them rewards, some special treatment," Walker explained to CBS, comparing the situation to having a disagreement with a personal friend.

"You can have discussions about people if there is a difficulty, but you don't have some special dinner with a friend when you've got challenges with, you sit down and talk about it. You don't give them the special treatment that you only reserve for your closest family and friends."

China's economy has been growing at a blistering pace, averaging eight percent a year since the late 1970's, although recently - even before the massive market drop this week - there have been signs of a slowdown. The Wisconsin governor remains concerned that the U.S. may slip behind.

"Right now America is leading, overall not just in China, but all over the globe, from a position of weakness, we are leading from behind and we need to start leading again," he said.

In an op-ed published on Real Clear Politics Friday, Walker espoused an "optimistic vision" for U.S.-China relations, pushing for the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

But Walker, like Rubio, also believes in increasing U.S. military strength, and he calls for an end to sequestration cuts on the defense budget and a return to higher military spending levels. Walker also calls for a "vigorous shipbuilding program" that would both provide jobs and increase the nation's security.

On foreign policy, Walker slammed the "Obama-Clinton worldview" for being soft on human rights issues, bringing up Clinton's assertion while she was secretary of state that human rights shouldn't "interfere" with other issues in her conversation with China. She said in 2009, shortly before a visit there, "our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis," a comment that met with criticism soon after.