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Sec State Pompeo signals break on China policy, suggests US-led alliance against Beijing

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo at Richard Nixon Presidential Library, in Yorba Linda, Calif., on July 23, 2020. (Ron Przysucha/U.S. State Department)
July 30, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Washington must make a clean break with its existing policy of trusting China and should lead a global “alliance of democracies” to counter its increasingly aggressive actions, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, in the latest of a series of hawkish Trump administration speeches about Beijing.

Speaking at the Nixon Library in California, Pompeo said the U.S. had little to show for nearly five decades of engagement with China, while Beijing has repeatedly taken advantage of Washington’s complacency in bilateral relations, including through intellectual property (IP) theft, trade imbalances, and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) designs for a global hegemony.

“The old paradigm of blind engagement with China has failed,” Pompeo said. “We must not continue it. We must not return to it.”

The top U.S. diplomat said the Trump administration will no longer accept platitudes from the Chinese government, when it routinely reneges on its promises and contradicts its claims.

Pompeo lambasted Beijing for its lack of transparency in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in its city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has gone on to infect more than 15 million people worldwide.

He also slammed China over its repressive measures in Hong Kong and against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), trade abuses he said had cost American jobs and harmed U.S. companies, and increased spending on its military, which he said routinely engages in provocative acts to further its territorial claims.

As part of its shift in policy towards China, Pompeo noted that the Trump administration has taken increasingly tougher measures against Beijing.

He cited the abrupt closure this week of its consulate in Houston—which he called “a hub of spying and IP theft”—the leveling of sanctions against Chinese officials deemed responsible for rights abuses, and the ramping up of operations in waters Beijing lays claim to in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Call for global pressure

He called on other “free nations” to follow the U.S. lead in standing up to China, although he acknowledged that not every country could be expected to do so in the same way.

“Every nation will have to come to its own understanding of how to protect its national security, its economic prosperity, and its ideals from the tentacles of the CCP,” he said.

“But I call on all nations to start by doing what America has done—to insist on reciprocity, transparency, and accountability from the Chinese Communist Party … a cadre of rulers that is far from homogenous.”

Pompeo said that the U.S. “can’t face this challenge alone,” but he questioned the ability of existing global bodies to push back against China.

“The U.N., NATO, the G7, the G20, our combined economic, diplomatic, and military power is surely enough to meet this challenge, if directed properly,” he said, suggesting that such groups had already been undermined by China’s influence.

“Maybe it’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations … a new alliance of democracies. Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because of our founding principles.”

Pompeo again stressed that there “can be no return to past practices” in dealing with China.

“If the free world doesn’t change Communist China, Communist China will change us,” he said.

‘Putting it all together’

The secretary of state’s speech was the fourth he delivered after National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Attorney General William Barr that he said the Trump administration had used to “make clear the threats to Americans” the president’s policy aims to address.

Last week, Barr discussed the economic danger China poses to the U.S., saying that “the ultimate ambition of China’s rulers isn’t to trade with the United States. It is to raid the United States.”

Earlier this month, Wray warned that acts of espionage and theft by China’s government pose the “greatest long-term threat” to the future of the U.S. and said it is involved in a “whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary.”

In late June, O’Brien discussed the ideology of China’s leaders, comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and suggesting both U.S. political parties had failed to see that Beijing is working to “remake the world” in its image.

Pompeo said that his goal Thursday was to “put it all together for the American people … and detail what the China threat means for our economy, our liberty, and the free world’s future.”