Donald Trump told CNBC on Monday the United States has "tremendous power" over China because the world's second-largest economy depends on American prosperity, and because of Beijing's ownership of a staggering amount of U.S. debt.
"They suck the blood out of us and we owe them money," Trump said on "Squawk Box."
"I call them great magicians," he added in the phone interview in which he also accused the Fed of being politically motivated, blasted President Barack Obama for increasing the national debt, and reacted to the health problems of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The Republican presidential nominee was quick to say: "You're not going to default on that debt."
"Although," he said, "you could make the case ... China has defaulted with us" by stealing U.S. intellectual property. IP theft, principally by China, costs the American economy $300 billion a year, according to a 2013 bipartisan commission report.
Despite all that, Trump argued: "We have a lot of power," alluding to the old saying that debtors have the problem if they owe a bank $100, but the bank has the problem if a debtor owes $100 million.
Under this analogy, China would be the bank, and America would be the debtor that owes China $1.2 trillion. That's dollar value of U.S. sovereign debt owned by China, according to June data from the Treasury Department.
Trump said also he sees the U.S. having leverage over China because its economy derives strength from manufacturing and exporting many of the goods that Americans buy everyday.
"We should get China to fix that problem. We should use our economic power. Because without us, China would be in serious trouble," he said, echoing a theme he's raised throughout his campaign that China is getting the best of the U.S. on the trade front.
As a tough negotiator in the business world as a billionaire real estate mogul, Trump has argued he's the candidate to craft better trade deals with world powers, such as China.