The Trump administration is giving notice: the time has come for a fundamentally different approach to China.
In a speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out a manifesto for the future of Western-China relations and called on the free world to give up its “blind engagement” with the communist nation, Fox News reported.
Pompeo wants change
Declaring the last 50 years of openness to China a failure, Pompeo said Thursday that the communist nation grew into a powerful, hostile regime at the free world’s expense, rather than into the democratic society that was expected.
“The truth is that our policies — and those of other free nations — resurrected China’s failing economy, only to see Beijing bite the international hands that fed it,” the secretary of State said, according to a transcript provided by the State Department.
The speech came at a moment of tension between the world’s two largest economies, as the coronavirus pandemic raises fears of a shift in the balance of power between them. The countries have traded barbs over the pandemic, China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim minorities, and Chinese efforts to steal American secrets, while calls have swelled to investigate China and hold them accountable for the origin of COVID-19 among U.S. politicians.
For his part, Pompeo said Thursday that China’s mercenary approach to world affairs proves that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cannot be trusted to engage fairly, pointing to the country’s theft of intellectual property, its deceptive response to the pandemic, its trade behavior, and other misdeeds.
“Distrust and verify,” he quipped, in a riff on former President Ronald Reagan’s famous motto towards the Soviets, according to Fox.
Free world vs. communism
Framing the conflict as a battle between global freedom and global slavery, Pompeo further called on Western nations to unite in a “new alliance of democracies” and “induce” China to change, before the CCP fully realizes its ambitions of dominance.
“If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world,” he said, according to the State Department’s transcript.
Explaining what America has done so far to combat China’s rise, Pompeo pointed to the recent closing of China’s consulate in Houston, Texas over suspicions of spying, among other steps. Although China exerts a pernicious influence within Western countries, as seen in the deference shown to the CCP by many Western corporations — something not seen in the Cold War — Pompeo struck a bold tone nevertheless.
“It’s true that unlike the Soviet Union, China is deeply integrated into the global economy,” he said, according to the transcript. “But Beijing is more dependent on us than we are on them.”
At the close of his speech, Pompeo said he believes Chinese dominance is not inevitable and made an appeal for Western unity. “If the free world doesn’t change,” he said, “communist China will surely change us.”