Presented without any preceding comment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you view China as a potential military threat to the United States?
HERMAN CAIN: I do view China as a potential military threat to the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what could you do as president to head that off?
HERMAN CAIN: My China strategy is quite simply outgrow China. It gets back to economics. China has a $6 trillion economy and they’re growing at approximately 10 percent. We have a $14 trillion economy — much bigger — but we’re growing at an anemic 1.5, 1.6 percent. When we get our economy growing back at the rate of 5 or 6 percent that it has the ability to do, we will outgrow China.
And secondly, we already have superiority in terms of our military capability, and I plan to get away from making cutting our defense a priority and make investing in our military capability a priority, going back to my statement: peace through strength and clarity. So yes they’re a military threat. They’ve indicated that they’re trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers like we have. So yes, we have to consider them a military threat.
In the context above, Cain’s answer suggests that China lacks nuclear capability but is developing it. But China currently has more than 400 nuclear weapons (as of 1999, anyway). According to Nature News, it has 13 nuclear reactors online for producing electricity, with another 20 under construction. China became a nuclear power in 1964. For what it’s worth, Cain does get partial credit on the aircraft carriers, since China launched her first one in 2011.
The “right of return” gaffe wasn’t a one-off. Neither were Cain’s self-contradictory comments on abortion, or his comments on negotiating with terrorists and trading all the goons in Gitmo for a single American, or his bad call in handling Politico’s vague, thinly sourced attack piece. In fact, that decision led to the interview linked above with Judy Woodruff, which without any sort of media trickery produced the nugget about China’s nukes.
Update: Ace wastes more time looking into this, and concludes that Cain could not possibly have not known that China is a nuclear power. I say “wastes more time” because that’s what it is. Cain needs to learn to speak more clearly and authoritatively on foreign policy questions than he has so far. No one would have given a second look at that China quote if he hadn’t already shown a disturbing tendency to not know how to answer even the most basic questions about 101-level issues.