Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared China the globe’s greatest threat Thursday in a landmark speech at the Nixon Presidential Library as relations between the two nations continue to deteriorate.
In his address, Pompeo urged other nations to unite to stand up to Beijing as China flexes an aggressive 21st century foreign policy in a totalitarian effort to claim global dominance and undermine the existing international order.
“If we don’t act now, ultimately, the [Chinese Communist Party] will erode our freedoms and subvert the rules-based order free societies have built,” Pompeo warned. “If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the CCP, whose actions are the primary challenge to the free world. If the free world doesn’t change Communist China, Communist China will change us. There can be no return to past practices just because they’re comfortable or convenient.”
Pompeo condemned China’s human rights violations, rebuked China’s cyber warfare operations, denounced its efforts to take unfair advantage of western nations, and slammed its ill-faith efforts over the Wuhan virus it unleashed on the world.
“President Reagan dealt with the Soviets on the basis of ‘trust but verify,'” Pompeo said. “When it comes to the CCP, I say, ‘Distrust and verify.'”
“We, the free nations of the world, must induce change in the CCP’s behavior in more creative and assertive ways, because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo’s address comes during a rapidly decaying relationship between the two world’s largest superpowers as tensions reach new heights with the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston earlier this week.
The United States ordered the Chinese outpost shut down Tuesday and accused the CCP of conducting espionage operations from their Houston offices. A spokesperson for the State Department said China had been “engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations” that had “increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years.”
On Thursday, Pompeo characterized the Houston consulate as a “hub for spying and IP theft,” and touted the Trump administration’s pledge to pursue “fairness and reciprocity.” That features ramping up a U.S. presence in the South China Sea to reverse “eight years of cheek turning” related to the communist government’s disregard for international law governing global waterways.
The location of the address paid tribute to the former president’s good-faith attempts decades ago to foster relations with the developing east Asian country. However, Pompeo said, it was time for the world to change course on the sleeping giant now making a play for world power.
“The kind of engagement we have been pursuing has not brought the kind of change inside of China that President Nixon had hoped to induce,” Pompeo conceded. “Richard Nixon was right when he wrote in 1967 that ‘the world cannot be safe until China changes.’ Now it’s up to us to heed his words. Today, the danger is clear.”