Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday called China "the most significant long-term geopolitical threat facing America,” as a high-stakes trade war converges with other flashpoints that are ratcheting up tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Yahoo Finance's editor-in-chief Andy Serwer, the Texas Republican and 2016 GOP presidential contender described his tour through Asia with stops in Japan, Taiwan, India, and Hong Kong.
He explained that his recent trip was designed to be a "friends and allies tour" with neighbors of China — with an emphasis on "dealing with China's enhanced military aggression."
Cruz told Yahoo Finance that "You know, China is modernizing its military, they're doing so in large part with technology, intellectual property they've stolen from the United States because they employ the theft of [intellectual property] as a policy agenda item. And that threat is very real.”
The Lone Star State’s junior senator went on to slam China's human rights records as "abysmal," pointing to the roughly million Muslim Uighurs who are held in internment camps and are subjected to torture and death. Amid a protest movement in Hong Kong that’s ensnared big U.S. multinational brands, Cruz also called out the broader business community for prioritizing profits over principals.
"[I] have a long spoken out against Chinese human rights abuses," Cruz said.
"What we're seeing now though is a more dangerous incarnation, which is U.S. companies, they're so desperate to make a buck in China — and I get it — it's a lot of money access to the Chinese market — but we shouldn't have our fundamental values — free speech shouldn't be for sale,” he added.
He singled out Apple (AAPL) after it reportedly removed the Taiwanese flag from its emoji keyboard in Hong Kong, and also pulled two apps from its store that protesters there used to organize.
“I don't think U.S. companies should be willing to aid and abet oppression and censorship by the Communist government,” Cruz added.
Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.