Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was repeatedly attacked by his rivals over business ties to China during the second GOP presidential primary debate.
Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur before launching his political career, took part in the debate alongside six other candidates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday night. Opponents including Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Vice President Mike Pence, ex-U.S. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis all pounced on Ramaswamy over his past connection to China.
Scott took aim at Ramaswamy by claiming that he was “just in business with the Chinese Communist Party.” Ramaswamy called the accusation “nonsense.” DeSantis then said that “everybody” knew Ramaswamy “did business in China,” while Haley accused him of ending his relationship with the company “right before” running for president. Pence made a similar jab.
An at-times seemingly angry Ramaswamy defended himself amid the pile-on by arguing that he only did business in China “when every other CEO expanded into the Chinese market.”
“You know what I did with my first company? We opened a subsidiary in China,” Ramaswamy said. “But you know what I did that was different than every other company? We got the hell out of there. And when I started my next company … I made a commitment that we would never do business in China.”
Newsweek reached out for comment to the Ramaswamy campaign via email on Wednesday night.
While Ramaswamy no longer has any business ties to China, he did have a clear connection at one time. Roivant Sciences, a biotech company that Ramaswamy formed in 2014, joined forces in 2018 with CITIC PE, an arm of a larger company owned by the government of China, to form the Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovant Sciences.
A 2018 press release for a Sinovant event describes the company as “a Shanghai-based biopharmaceutical company dedicated to bringing innovative medicines to China and advancing Chinese biopharmaceutical innovation abroad.”
In 2019, Roivant and Sinovant formed another company, Cytovant Sciences, which had a mission “to become Asia’s premier cell therapy company by discovering, developing, and commercializing new medicines that are uniquely suited to Asian patients.”
Ramaswamy has since gone on to speak out against American companies doing business with China, denouncing the Chinese government during his presidential campaign and telling Fox News in June that he “would ban most U.S. businesses from doing business in China unless and until the CCP reforms its behaviors.”
Tricia McLaughlin, communications director for the Ramaswamy campaign, told Fox News Digital this week that the candidate’s views on doing business with China changed due to his experiences in forming Sinovant, something that he would no longer allow as president because “our country is at a precipice” and “cannot depend on an enemy for our modern way of life.”
Neither Sinovant nor Cytovant are currently active companies, while Ramaswamy stepped down as CEO of Roivant in 2021, the same year that he authored the book Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam. By the time he launched his presidential bid in February, Ramaswamy’s business career had netted him hundreds of millions of dollars.