Secretary Pompeo urges more assertive approach to China

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech slamming China was an “angry lament” and “extended ideological rant” that would do little to change Beijing’s behavior, said Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Later Pompeo said Washington and its allies should use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways, calling it the mission of our time.

He also called for the engagement and empowerment of the Chinese people whom he described as “dynamic and freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party.”

He said “blind engagement” with China and repeated frequently leveled U.S. charges about its unfair trade practices, human rights abuses and efforts to infiltrate American society.

He said China’s military had became “stronger and more menacing” and the approach to Beijing should be “distrust and verify,” adapting President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra about the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Relations between the U.S. and China — the world’s top two economies — have been at their worst in decades. In addition to the countries’ ongoing trade war, both sides have recently sparred over a range of issues including the origin of the corona virus and China’s move to implement a national security law in Hong Kong.

Later he said one NATO ally, which he did not name, was unwilling to stand up for freedom in Hong Kong because it feared restricted access to China’s market.

While some conservative commentators praised Pompeo’s speech on social media and elsewhere, some other analysts were not impressed.