Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) praised China's authoritarian government for reducing poverty as part of his attempt during Sunday night's debate to defend his previous support for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Asked by debate moderator Ilia Calderón whether dictators should be judged by their human rights violations or "alleged achievements," Sanders doubled down on his support for communist countries by saying China's work to combat "extreme poverty" was undeniable.
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"I think you can make the same point about China," Sanders said. "China is undoubtedly an authoritarian society. But will anybody, will any economist deny that extreme poverty in China today is much less than what it was 40 or 50 years ago? That's a fact. So I think we condemn authoritarianism … but to simply say that nothing ever done by any of those administrations had a positive impact on their people, would, I think, be incorrect."
The Vermont senator controversially defended Fidel Castro in February, arguing "its unfair to simply say everything is bad" about the Cuban dictator since he had a successful literacy program.
Former vice president Joe Biden quickly jumped on Sanders's comment, attacking him for his regular praise for "authoritarian dictatorships."
"The praising of the Sandinistas [in Nicaragua], the praising of Cuba, the praising just now of China," Biden said. "China is an authoritarian dictatorship. "
"The idea that they have increased the wealth of people in that country, it's marginal the change that has taken place," the former vice president said. "They still have a million Uyghurs, a million Muslims in prison camps in the west."
This is not the first time Sanders has praised China's antipoverty program. He said in August that China has done more to solve extreme poverty than "any country in the history of civilization." He has also previously implemented policy based on his admiration for communist regimes, pursuing stronger ties with the Soviet Union while he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont.
China routinely falsifies its economic figures, with one study by the liberal Brookings Institution finding that the Chinese economy is 12 percent smaller than it claims.