The traditional approach to American engagement with China has failed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared on Thursday.
“What do the American people have to show now 50 years on from engagement with China?” Pompeo said. “Did the theories of our leaders that proposed China’s evolution toward freedom and democracy prove to be true? Is this China’s definition of a win-win situation? And indeed centrally from the Secretary of State perspective, is America safer?”
Speaking at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in California, Pompeo decried the Chinese Communist Party as a dishonest global player and brutal domestic regime. He portrayed a dark image of China’s intentions and denounced engagement with the country as having benefited Beijing at Americans’ expense. Noting the approaching 50th anniversary of Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to China, Pompeo said Nixon’s predictions of contact with the People’s Republic leading to greater freedoms in China had yet to materialize.
Pompeo has seldom masked his disdain for the Chinese communist government and its head, President Xi Jinping, who has increasingly tightened his control over the country. The Trump administration has taken a firmer stand in recent months, sanctioning officials from the Chinese Communist Party, halting trade talks and ousting the Chinese delegation from its consulate in Houston. (The Chinese government strongly condemned the ouster, and Consul General Cai Wei said on Thursday that he and his staff planned to stay put in the Houston consulate for the indefinite future.)
During his Thursday speech, Pompeo said Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his secretary of State, did what they thought was right at the time in thawing relations with China. But Pompeo raised a host of human rights abuses and improprieties reportedly perpetrated by the Chinese government as evidence that China has failed to uphold its end of the relationship.
He called out the Chinese Communist Party for not revealing information on the novel coronavirus sooner. The Trump administration has accused the World Health Organization of pandering to China in hesitating to declare a pandemic in mid-March (the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the organization in June). Pompeo said that China viewed trade agreements more as suggestions, and that dealing with companies backed by the Communist Party amounted to supporting the party’s human rights violations.
“We imagined engagement with China would produce a future with bright promises of comity and cooperation,” Pompeo said. “But today we’re all still wearing masks and watching the pandemic’s body count rise because the CCP failed in its promises to the world.”
Pompeo cited detention camps for ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang and the encroaching authority of Beijing in Hong Kong as examples of greater suppression of civil liberties under Xi. He condemned foreign companies acquiescing to Chinese political demands for access to Chinese markets. Several U.S. airlines no longer list Taiwan as an independent country on their websites, he pointed out, though it is an autonomous and fully democratic society.
Pompeo closely tied the Trump administration’s long-standing trade war with a fight for human rights and U.S. national security. He justified the order to shutter the Houston consulate, saying it was a “hub of spying and intellectual property theft,” and characterized the administration’s fight against the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei as a matter of national security. The U.S. government has been seeking to push out Huawei from the U.S. amid speculation that it’s a pawn of the Chinese surveillance state — a claim the company denies.
Pompeo said the U.S. must be more cautious in its approach to China than its handling of the Soviet Union, saying China’s deep enmeshment on the global stage and in international markets make containment an unrealistic strategy.
Pompeo claimed that agents of the Chinese government had infiltrated American press conferences and the student bodies of U.S. universities. The Trump administration has put more restrictions on visas for Chinese students and journalists, at least in part in response to these claims.
“Communist China is already within our borders,” Pompeo said.
China’s ultimate goal, Pompeo asserted, is communist hegemony in the world based on a “bankrupt, totalitarian ideology.” The U.S. and China cannot ignore the fundamental ideological differences between them, he said.
Pompeo distinguished the Chinese government with the people of China, saying its citizenry yearns for greater freedoms. He vowed to stand with movements toward democracy and urged democratic nations around the world to push China for greater human rights.
“Communists almost always lie. The biggest lie that they tell is to think that they speak for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed and scared to speak out,” Pompeo said. “I call on every leader of every nation to start doing what America has done — to simply insist on reciprocity, to insist on transparency, and accountability from the Chinese Communist Party.”
“We, the freedom loving nations of the world, must induce China to change, just as President Nixon wanted,” Pompeo said. “We must induce China to change in more creative and assertive ways, because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity.”