This story has been updated.
Angry anti-China rhetoric from U.S. politicians escalated Monday as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) called on President Obama to cancel Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the White House next month.
Walker cited the economic turmoil Monday that roiled U.S. stock markets, which analysts said began over concerns about China’s slowing growth, as the latest in a string of provocations from Beijing.
“Why would we be giving one of our highest things a president can do — and that is a state dinner for Xi Jinping, the head of China — at a time when all of these problems are pending out there?” Scott Walker told reporters following a visit to the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg, S.C., on Monday afternoon. “We should say those… honors should only be bestowed upon leaders and countries that are allies and supporters of the United States, not just for China, which is a strategic competitor.”
Walker said that a disinvitation would be a diplomatic move that other countries would respect.
“I think China, as others in the world, would actually respect some leadership once and for all from the United States. Part of our problem right now is that they don’t respect us,” Walker said. “…This is sending a clear message that we expect better out of China.”
Republican front-runner Donald Trump has been hammering China for months; Walker said Monday that it’s something he has been worried about for just as long. Walker mentioned China as a threat during his announcement speech on July 13 — a topic he seldom, if ever, mentioned before then which has become a regular part of his stump speech. Walker said his action today has nothing to do with Trump, who is beating him in early polls.
“It’s something I’ve talked about repeatedly… Just because the media covers some candidates more than others doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t talking about things. It’s just that we don’t get the same level of coverage.” He said the timing of Monday’s statement was intended to coincide with the stock market turmoil in the wake of the Chinese move to devalue their currency.
Xi is scheduled to make his first state visit to the White House in late September, a summit with Obama that comes amid increasing tensions between the two countries over the alleged hacking by Chinese operatives of U.S. government personnel records and maritime skirmishes in the South China Sea.
China’s move two weeks ago to devalue its currency, which some analysts said was tied to Beijing’s efforts to prop up exports and boost its economy, drew angry responses from U.S. lawmakers in both parties. On Monday, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, both criticized U.S. trade and economic policy.
U.S. officials have said the summit will offer a chance for the Obama to raise concerns with Xi, while also making progress on other areas of cooperation such as combating climate change. China is also among the nations involved with the United States on a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.
But Walker said that Obama should cancel the visit because “there’s serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama.”
In his six-and-a-half years, Obama has held eight state visits for eight world leaders of India, Mexico, China, South Korea, Germany, Britain, France and Japan. In 2013, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff canceled a state visit invitation from Obama over revelations that the United States had spied on her personal communications.
Jenna Johnson and Philip Rucker contributed to this story.