WASHINGTON — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a rumored Republican presidential or vice presidential candidate, touted her own credentials in standing up to the influence of the Chinese government Wednesday during a keynote address in Washington.

During her speech at the America First Policy Institute, a Trump-aligned think tank, Noem cited her work in combatting COVID-19 without “communist lockdowns,” banning TikTok on government devices and blocking Chinese purchases of land, a policy Noem is working to pass.

“In the last three years, we’ve become a symbol of freedom to the rest of the world for a different reason, and we’re setting an example now today by drawing a blueprint for a state-led response to Communist China,” said the Republican governor, who has been in office since 2019.

Noem framed her state as a pioneer in anti-China policies, such as restricting the use of TikTok, which she called “potentially the greatest cyber security threat that our nation has ever faced.” Banning TikTok has become a priority of Republican China hawks at the state and federal levels.

“Here’s the problem: every single phone to download that app essentially is a new spy device for the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. “They use it to gather data on the American people. They’re manipulating their algorithms to control us. They have the ability to track our keystrokes, to study us and to gather our financial information.”

Noem and other right-wing governors have staked their reputation on flaunting federal COVID-19 policies. She contended that she did not overstep her authority as governor during the pandemic, adding that her administration trusted individuals to “exercise personal responsibility.” 

She lauded South Dakota for being the only state that never ordered a single business or church to close during the pandemic — a claim that has been contested — and urged the rest of the country to follow South Dakota’s blueprint: “More freedom, less China.”

After her keynote address, Noem engaged in a fireside chat with Republican political adviser Steve Yates, who previously served as deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney and now leads AFPI’s China Policy Initiative.

Noem, who initially signaled that she would support former President Donald Trump in his third presidential campaign, told The New York Times in November that he did not offer the party “the best chance” in 2024.

Noem told Robert Costa of CBS News last month that she’s “not convinced” she needs to run in 2024 and has said she would be “shocked” if Trump asked her to be his running mate, although she has not said whether she would accept such an offer.

As Capitol Hill has been consumed by a flurry of anti-China activity in recent weeks following the U.S. takedown of a Chinese surveillance balloon over U.S. airspace, leading potential presidential candidates have also been competing to prove their hawkish stances on China.

In her official campaign launch this morning, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called for fresh leadership to combat China’s growing presence on the global stage.

“China’s dictators want to cover the world in communist tyranny and we’re the only ones who can stop them,” she said in Charleston, S.C. “But let me be clear: we won’t win the fight for the 21st century if we keep trusting politicians from the 20th century.”