PHILADELPHIA • A day after losing Wisconsin, Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton unleashed a blistering critique of China while campaigning in blue-collar Pennsylvania, warning that the Asian giant must "toe the line" if she becomes president.
The eastern US state, where organised labour is an influential force, hosts its presidential primaries on April 26.
"China illegally dumps cheap products in our markets, steals our trade secrets, plays games with their currency, gives unfair advantages to state-owned enterprises and discriminates against American companies," she said.
"We will throw the book at China for their illegal actions."
Mrs Clinton's remarks, delivered to a state AFL-CIO union convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, were among her most forceful campaign trail comments about Beijing.
NO DUMPING, NO CHEATING
China illegally dumps cheap products in our markets, steals our trade secrets, plays games with their currency, gives unfair advantages to state-owned enterprises and discriminates against American companies. We will throw the book at China for their illegal actions.
MRS HILLARY CLINTON, speaking to voters in Pennsylvania.
Her rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, was to address the gathering yesterday.
Mrs Clinton, seeking to regain her footing in the nomination race after losing six of the last seven state contests, pointed to her experience as secretary of state as a measure of her ability to influence Beijing.
"I have gone toe to toe with China's top leaders on some of the toughest issues we faced, from cyber attacks to human rights to climate change to trade and more," she said.
"I know how they operate, and they know if I'm president, they're going to have to toe the line, because we are going to once and for all get fair treatment, or they are not going to get access to our markets."
At one point, she referred to China as "the biggest abuser of global trade".
Mrs Clinton defeated Mr Barack Obama in Pennsylvania in their 2008 primary battle, thanks to support from union Democrats.
However, she will need to reassure workers who have criticised her late opposition to the trans-Pacific trade deal signed recently by President Obama. Mr Sanders has steadfastly opposed the agreement from Day One.
"My message to every worker in Pennsylvania, every worker across America, is this: I will stand with you, I will have your back and I will stop dead in its tracks any trade deal that hurts America," Mrs Clinton said.
She leads Mr Sanders by 52.7 per cent to 35 per cent in a RealClearPolitics poll average, although the latest poll, released by Quinnipiac University on Tuesday, puts Mrs Clinton just six points ahead.
She is well ahead in the nominations race, but she has suffered stinging defeats for two weeks.
A win in the New York primary on April 19 is crucial for her to prevent Mr Sanders from snatching the nomination. But the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont is popular with the rank and file.
"I don't think she is a bad person, and if she wins the nomination I will vote for her," said Mr Don Long, 39, a union telecommunications worker. But considering "somebody who is as solidly behind organised labour as Bernie Sanders is", Mr Long added, "you got to go with Bernie Sanders".