With Cold War Language, Pompeo Defines Plan For ‘Totalitarian’ China

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Above photo: US and China conflict escalating. Credit IANS.

In the fourth major China policy speech by administration leaders in the past month, Pompeo says the US can’t go back to the era of engagement.

In a major foreign policy speech on U.S.-China relations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cast ratcheted-up tensions with Beijing in Cold War terms, announcing that Washington would seek to change Beijing’s behavior and stopping just short of calling for regime change.

He described Beijing — and Chinese President Xi Jinping — as a generational threat to “free democracies around the world,” a totalitarian and hegemonic regime that must not be treated like a normal nation. Riffing on President Ronald Reagan’s famous “trust but verify” dictum about the Soviet Union, he said that when it comes to Beijing, the U.S. must “distrust and verify.”

“Changing the CCP’s behavior cannot be the mission of the Chinese people alone. Free nations have to work to defend freedom,” Pompeo said. He went on to say that he had “faith” the United States could successfully force a change in Beijing’s behavior because it had done so before: with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Communist party,” Pompeo said.

The particular rhetoric used by Pompeo, often invoking the decades-long conflict between the United States and the USSR, gave ammunition to analysts and politicians who have characterized the increasingly-tense relations between the two nations as a new Cold War. The term is controversial, in part because the United States and the Soviet Union had virtually no economic ties, while China is deeply integrated into the global economy. Some critics also fear that its use unnecessarily ramps up tensions even further.

Speaking at the Nixon Library in California on Thursday, Pompeo emphasized that the Trump administration’s muscular approach to China “isn’t about containment,” instead characterizing it as a response to an unprecedented and complex challenge. He also sought to portray the administration’s approach as a new era of realpolitik, arguing that past leaders who preached “engagement” had ignored warnings of the malign intentions behind China’s actions.

“We have to keep in mind that the CCP regime is a Marxist-Leninist regime. General Secretary Xi Jinping is a true believer in a bankrupt totalitarian ideology,” Pompeo said. “America can no longer ignore the fundamental political and ideological differences between our countries just as the CCP has never ignored them.”

The speech was the fourth speech on China policy by senior Trump administration officials. It follows the roll-out of a series of punitive measures, including sanctions, indictments, consulate closure, and an executive order rescinding Hong Kong’s special trading relationship with the United States over a new national security law in Beijing. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr, and FBI Director Christopher Wray have all spoken in recent weeks, addressing the administration’s position on China’s trade practices, intellectual property theft, and other CCP conduct. Defense Secretary Mark Esper also spoke on China’s militarization of the South China Sea on Tuesday.

U.S. relations with China have unquestionably soured, reaching their lowest point in decades as Trump has pressed China on trade and tariffs, and U.S. leaders have struggled to counter an increasingly assertive Beijing while still maintaining its trade relationship with the largest economy in the world based on purchasing power parity. (PPP is seen as a better comparison between nations than a ranking based on nominal GDP, which doesn’t take into account inflation and the relative cost of local goods and services. The U.S. is still the largest economy based on nominal GDP; China is second-largest.)

Pompeo and other Trump officials have carefully distinguished between the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party, and on Thursday he argued that “our approach can’t just be about getting tough.”

“We must also engage and empower the Chinese people, a dynamic and freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said — another echo to U.S. efforts during the Cold War to inspire and foster Soviet citizens to internal rebellion.

“That begins with in-person diplomacy,” Pompeo added.

But he rejected the prediction, laid out by some popular scholars, that war with China may become inevitable — or that an America in decline is destined to be eclipsed by China’s rise.

“I reject the notion that we’re living in an age of inevitability, that some trap is preordained, that CCP supremacy is the future,” Pompeo said. “The free world is still winning, we just need to believe it and know it and be proud of it.”

Katie Bo Williams is the senior national security correspondent for Defense One, where she writes about defense, counterterror, NATO, nukes, and more. She previously covered intelligence and cybersecurity for The Hill, including in-depth reporting on the Russia investigations and the military.

  • Tony

    And there you have it folks. A NEOCON administration that falsely claims that it “drained the swamp”. Fool me once………..

  • tttbnr

    Pompeo and the leadership he represents must be eliminated before they unleash their capitalist bloodlust, which the American people will be more than willing to commit.

  • SupernaturalCat

    The PNAC planners of the wholly manufactured GWOT always had much bigger targets in their sights.

  • mwildfire

    This whole thing is a huge pile of catshit. Not horseshit–that has a friendly bucolic smell. The entire rest of the world is trembling over the intention of those autocrats in Washington DC, not those in Beijing.

  • subcomandante Felix

    Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. Of the few socialist nation states, China is the primary threat to crumbling U.S. hegemony.

  • Ambricourt

    The Anglo-American-Israelite Empire – the embodiment of oligarchic global corporatism in the twentieth century – reasserts its “free world” rhetoric to continue militarized expansion into the twenty-first century.

  • John Chadwick

    What’s most incredible is that leaders of other Western nations, hear/read the insane rhetoric of u.s. zombie leaders, but they don’t stampede for the exits to avoid being infected…

  • Shlomo Orr

    China socialist? Are you falling into the Pompeo’s propaganda “Leninist/Marxist” (none have anything to do with China’s inhuman capitalism),

  • Shlomo Orr

    “distrust and verify.” Distrust and abuse. Distrust and kill, This is the Newspeak of today.

  • subcomandante Felix

    China crapitalist? You are the one who is woefully ignorant about China’s economy and parroting Trumptard,s b.s. – inhumane?. In a little over 70 years the Chinese have done more to raise the standard of living of their people, than any revolution in history. By their own admission they are a socialist country with socialist economic objectives. Have you read anything from the last Communist Party Congress about their plan to achieve a true socialist state?

  • Shlomo Orr

    So you buy China’s propaganda – a totalitarian regime now planning “to achieve a true socialist state?”… Like Russia, China has never been Communist (the Bolsheviks in Russia, who had control on the army, stole the government from the real communists) – rather, they call the State control “communism” (two different things, as State control is inherently totalitarian, exactly the opposite of communism).
    As part of “China raising the standard of living” in the last 70 years, they (Mao) have to kill 80 million people! Yet, I admit, like in the US, not everything is bad or wrong in China,


    General Secretary Xi Jinping is a true believer in a bankrupt totalitarian ideology,”

  • subcomandante Felix

    Actually the Bolsheviks took power from the Western-backed provisional government. Real political power was mainly in the soviets, which particularly in cities had large Bolshevik components. Like China the revolutionary government was not stolen but came from the barrel of a gun. Amid the civil war the power of the soviets declined due to the necessities of dealing with the counter-revolutionaries (backed by the crapitalists), which in 1918 constituted a major threat. Revolutions are not clean, pure ideological affairs and are driven by specific historical circumstances. You are a typical American leftist, all theory and no practice – which is usually a very messy affair – along with faulty understanding based on the phony Western narrative.. .

  • Shlomo Orr

    Besides the BS in your extensive writing (which started with another BS on ” Psychological projection”, it sounds like you agree with me after all, about “socialism” and the actual regimes in China and Russia (rather than “socialism”…). Your psychological analysis of me shows too much about you, Felix…

  • subcomandante Felix

    China is the only regime that has some continuity with it’s revolution. Russia is what happens when the counter-revolution is successful in restoring crapitalism. I agree with you about socialism, China and Russia only in your wet dreams.

  • subcomandante Felix

    Here’s something from today’s TeleSur

    China: Party Leaders Analyze Economic Work For The Rest Of 2020

    The statement stressed the need to hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics to promote China’s economic and social development in the period of the 14th Five-Year Plan, and to secure a good start in fully building a modern socialist country. ……….

    While demanding strengthening anti-epidemic international cooperation to build a global community of health, the CPC leaders also stressed efforts to ensure people’s livelihoods, eradicate poverty, prevent and control pollution, and step up flood control and disaster relief measures.

    How different from the real totalitarian settler-colonist regimes that took power through ethnic cleansing and stealing the land of the indigenous population — U.S. & Israel.

  • Shlomo Orr

    Indeed, all propaganda by the ruling powers, with a few good byproducts (no socialism and no democracy either, across much of the world today). there are no “revolutions” – just cues, where one power elite is replaced by another, or different actors in one party are being replaced by different actors (of another party) by the real “government” of oligarchs.

  • Shlomo Orr

    Same in America – socialism and real democracy are only a dream.

    In the Orwellian scripts, China and Russia use “socialism”, while in the US it’s “democracy”…

  • subcomandante Felix

    There is one huge difference between the U.S. and China and to a lesser extent Russia. That would be leaders and a political class that put the welfare of society, aka the people, above that of individual oligarchs/donors. Many if not most, U.S. political leaders are sociopathic criminals and grifters. As for the rest of the political class they could best be described as corporate lackeys, Wall Street shills and oligarchic stooges.

  • Shlomo Orr

    None of these governments care for the people. They may fear the people, and hence, try to put fires off and avoid revolt, but all they care is power and control of the people. Please read “1984”.

  • subcomandante Felix

    Generally speaking, i agree that nation states are part of the problem not the solution. But, you can’t ignore the facts regarding China and how they have transformed society since 1949. Not just for some of the people, but for the vast majority of Chinese life is materially speaking far, far better. That is the real difference between the U.S. and China. China’s political leadership does what it feels is best for all the people, not just rich — whether you agree with them or not.

  • Shlomo Orr

    The material success story in China is complex. To simplify, it is a result of globalization, with billion slaves in China and greedy corporations elsewhere, particularly in the US, who have moved the production to China. Indeed the Chinese government is smarter, understands the importance of science and public education and universities, etc. However, politically it is a nightmare (don’t forget the Tianamin Square, Burma, the Uyghurs, the Falun Gong, including what’s happening in Hongkong). At least in the US we still have some freedom of speech, and Popular Resistance is still operating…