Sen. John Kennedy calls the Chinese Communist Party 'bunch of gangsters,' at CPAC

'I would not turn my back on President Xi if he were two days dead,' Kennedy said
Senator John Kennedy

Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy on Thursday called the Chinese Communist Party a "bunch of gangsters," helping get the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington off to a raucous start. 

"Let me say a word about China," Kennedy said during his main stage speech at Maryland's National Harbor, just outside of Washington, D.C. "The truth is the Chinese Communist Party is a bunch of gangsters. They are. They're pirates."

The event is widely considered one of the conservative movement's biggest, annual gatherings and is known for its top-drawer speakers and enthusiastic, stars-and-stripes wearing attendees. 

Tensions have been rising between China and the U.S. – particularly after a Chinese surveillance balloon earlier this month traversed America before being shot down off the Atlantic Coast.

"I would not turn my back on President Xi if he were two days dead," Kennedy also said at the event, which ends Saturday with a speech from former President Trump.

Near the closing of his speech, Kennedy emphasized the importance of being armed to defend the country. 

"The corollary to that truth is that we must be armed if we want peace," he stated. "Because appeasing a tyrant is like trying to hand feed a shark."