This week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined “Top Story with Tom Llamas” on NBC Now to discuss the challenges the United States is facing, the threat posed by China and more.
Rubio said the following on the challenges facing the United States in the coming decades:
“I honestly believe we live in a historic moment. People have said that, but this is a geopolitical moment unlike anything we have faced in 30, 40 years. The world is literally changing right underneath us, both economically and geopolitically….
“We have a near-peer adversary in China. We haven’t had one since the end of the Cold War. China already is more powerful than the Soviet Union ever was. We need to start talking about that. Even as we are always constantly focused on the daily trees of American politics, we’re missing the forest.
“I think it’s important that the next president is someone who has a broad vision for what’s happening in the world and an answer for it. Because it’s changing so fast, it’s left a lot of people behind. Globalization left a lot of Americans behind. We need to have answers for those people, or we’re going to continue to be divided.”
Rubio said the following on the threat posed by Communist China:
“China is positioning itself militarily to be not just to be the most powerful nation in the Indo-Pacific, but to dominate it and to force us out of it. And people have to understand, if that were to happen, you’re talking about 60 or 70 percent of the global economy. Over half the world’s population lives in two countries in that region. When you add the other ones in, it gets closer to 70 percent. So you’re talking about a big deal.
“It would turn America into a continental power. We would not be a Pacific power for the first time since the end before the Second World War. And they’re building their military. They’re not going to invade the coast of California. But if they can hold at risk our aircraft carriers, our ability to project power in that region, these countries are going to become vassal states. They’re going to have to surrender to Chinese power, and we’re going to have to pay a toll for any products that we try to ship to Asia or get from Asia here. It concerns me deeply, because that military capability, they are focused on it like a laser.
“There’s a lot of inefficiency in dictatorships, but the one thing they can do is they can make decisions without having town hall meetings. And they’re moving very quickly, much faster than we are, and building up those capabilities….”
Rubio said the following on China’s presence in the Western Hemisphere:
“There’s a growing awareness of it. Unfortunately, the Western Hemisphere doesn’t receive a lot of attention here or in other places unless there’s a migratory crisis or something like that happening. But the Chinese are there for two reasons. The first is that they want access to minerals. They want access to rare earth minerals. They want access to those kinds of things. And the second is they want to have a geopolitical presence as a global power. And I think they want to turn the Western Hemisphere into what they believe we’ve done in Asia with Japan and South Korea and Australia and New Zealand and all these other allies. They want to do that to us in our own hemisphere.
“Unfortunately, they show up with a lot of money that they can use to either bribe officials and or…get contracts that may not have any global competitors for [them]. And they’ll build a port, they’ll build bridges, they’ll build a soccer stadium for free money. They throw around a little bribe on the side for the leaders of these countries. It’s a strategy that they’re pursuing, and they are doing it with some success.”
Rubio said the following on meeting with El Salvador President Bukele :
“El Salvador was an unlivable place. For 30 years, you couldn’t go out on the street at night. MS-13 and [Barrio] 18 gangs actually ran the country for the most part. Every small business in the country either had to pay protection money, had to pay these gangs, or they would kill you or a family member, also leading to mass migration.
“For the first time in 30 years, people are telling me [they can go out at night]. That’s why his [Bukele’s] approval ratings are so high, they’re in the 90s. And these are legitimate polling. Not even our embassy disputes this. I think the reason why he is so popular is because he rounded up a bunch of gang members, and they dispersed and put a brutal blow on them [the gangs].
“I don’t think they set out to violate human rights. They had 80-something people killed in one night and police officers targeted, and he went hard at them [the gangs]. It’s a promise he made. And by the way, voters have rewarded him with a supermajority in their congress….”
Rubio said the following on China’s influence in El Salvador:
“I just want them [Salvadoran leaders] to be clear eyed. If the Chinese show up and say, here’s $100 billion of free money, no strings attached, you better look very carefully to make sure there are no strings attached. I think it’s important for them to be clear eyed about it.
“They don’t build ports for the fun of it. They build ports because they want to dominate that area, because they want to dominate. They won’t just build the port. They will then ensure that their companies control all the logistical sites around it. And oftentimes, they’ll make these deals that make no financial sense. In essence, they’ll never make the money back that they’re investing, but they’re doing it for geopolitical purposes.
“My sense is that he [Bukele], like other leaders around the world in developing countries, [is] trying to figure out, how can I leverage this U.S.-China competition to get the best deal I can from both sides? That’s what he’s trying to do. That’s what others are trying to do. We need to be cognizant [of it].
“That’s one of the things that’s changing in the world right now. We have to have leaders that understand that the world is very different than it was 10 years ago. We have a competitor. We need to act like it.”
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