TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China a threat to freedom and democracy worldwide as the U.S. ratcheted up pressure on its rival by ordering a Chinese consulate to close and arresting three alleged Chinese agents, in a scathing speech on Thursday (July 23).
Speaking in front of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library Wednesday afternoon, the U.S.' top diplomat said he would lay out the threat China poses to the American economy, freedoms, and "the future of free democracies around the world."
He gave the library's namesake credit for "realizing that China was too important to be ignored," referencing Nixon's historic 1972 visit to the country that broke the decades-long silence between the two countries and led to U.S. diplomatic recognition. Noting that Nixon's stated aim of engaging with China was to "induce change" in the communist regime, Pompeo lamented that years of forbearance and rosy expectations that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would liberalize as its economy boomed had proven to be misplaced.
Recalling that Nixon had once expressed a fear that he had, perhaps, created a "Frankenstein" in China, the secretary of state proceeded to air a laundry list of grievances against Beijing. Among these were China's theft of intellectual property, use of cheap labor, and aggressive military posturing in the region, including (習近平) CCP Chairman Xi Jinping's U-turn on his promise not to militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Pompeo said that in light of China's failure to change its behavior, the time has come to pivot from a policy of "trust but verify" (former President Reagan's self-described approach to the Soviet Union) to one of "distrust and verify" vis-a-vis China. He also pointed out the U.S. has been stepping up its efforts to confront China on a range of fronts, from increasing the navy's freedom of navigation operations to this week's dramatic closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas.
He wrapped up his diatribe by calling on the rest of the world to form a united front, saying leaders must "insist on transparency and accountability" and "set the tone." Otherwise, he warned, the East Asian country would rebuild the world order in its image.
Pompeo's remarks capped a week in which tensions between the two superpowers ran even higher than usual.
The Trump administration on Tuesday gave the Houston consulate until Friday to close, tying it to alleged attempts by Chinese agents to steal data from Texas medical facilities. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded the U.S. was "tearing down a bridge of bilateral friendship," and on Friday China countered by announcing the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu must shutter its doors.
In a move that further enraged Beijing, four Chinese researchers were charged with visa fraud for allegedly concealing the fact that they remain on active duty in the People's Liberation Army. Three have been arrested but one was reportedly granted refuge by the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
The FBI is investigating others with suspected ties to the Chinese military in over 25 cities, according to the Justice Department.