Pompeo's clarion call on Communist China: 'We can't ignore it any longer'

Pompeo's clarion call on Communist China: 'We can't ignore it any longer'
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP lawmaker calls for Justice Dept. to probe international court Trump hits Hong Kong leader with sanctions Overnight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration MORE just dropped another shoe in the Trump administration’s multidimensional response to the Hydra-headed existential challenge from Communist China. But Pompeo’s sweeping address at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum was the most powerful yet — a virtual declaration of a new cold war and a call for global delegitimization of Xi Jinping’s rule in China through what amounts to regime change.  

Though he did not explicitly mention either cold war or regime change — terms that send shudders through the foreign policy establishment — Pompeo made it clear that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology and worldview are incompatible with a peaceful civilized world. China threatens nothing less than “a free 21st century,” he said.

“If the free world doesn’t change communist China,” Pompeo warned, “communist China will surely change us. … Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time.” 

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Pompeo clearly is leading the Trump administration’s firm pushback against Beijing’s mounting aggression toward both the Chinese people and the Western world. He described a multifaceted campaign he is orchestrating on behalf of the president: “[National security adviser] Robert O’Brien spoke about ideology. FBI Director [Christopher] Wray talked about espionage. Attorney General [William] Barr spoke about economics.” In the all-of-government effort, the Treasury, Commerce and Justice departments also are pursuing and prosecuting China’s multiple violations of law and regulations.

Contrary to the criticism from some quarters that the Trump administration has neglected China’s human rights violations, Pompeo recounted his meetings in February with Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs who escaped Xinjiang’s concentration camps; Hong Kong’s democracy leaders and dissident freedom fighters; and Tiananmen Square survivors in June. Though unmentioned, he also has delivered speeches and public statements calling attention to all of these human rights concerns and others. The festering continuation and expansion of human rights abuses — he could have included the horrific crime of forced organ harvesting — exposes the Communist Party’s false identity between itself and the Chinese people.

“The biggest lie … they tell is that they speak for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed and scared to speak out. Quite the contrary. The CCP fears the Chinese people’s honest opinions more than any foe and … losing their own grip on power. … For too many decades, our leaders have ignored, downplayed the words of brave Chinese dissidents who warned us about the nature of the regime we’re facing. And we can’t ignore it any longer.”

Pompeo gave the most pertinent example of the cost of Beijing’s perfidy: “Just think how much better off the world would be — not to mention the people inside of China — if we had been able to hear from the doctors in Wuhan and they’d been allowed to raise the alarm about the outbreak of a new and novel virus.”

He suggested that there needs to be an effort, both within China and from the outside world, to address the problem the CCP presents to the Chinese populace and the world: “[C]hanging the CCP’s behavior cannot be the mission of the Chinese people alone. Free nations have to work to defend freedom.” 

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He did not suggest a direct linkage between the two against a common adversary, such as the external support provided to dissidents within the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. But, if a fragmented approach does not succeed, that may be another shoe that drops in the future. 

Even for those outside China’s direct control, Pompeo acknowledged, “defend[ing] freedom [is] the furthest thing from easy.” The biggest obstacle, he suggested, is that the lure of profit in China — a major cause of the predicament we are in — will inhibit free nations from doing the responsible thing. “We have a NATO ally of ours that hasn’t stood up in the way that it needs to, with respect to Hong Kong, because they fear Beijing will restrict access to China’s market,” he said. “This is the kind of timidity that will lead to historic failure, and we can’t repeat it.”

In fact, just below the Wall Street Journal’s lead story on Pompeo’s speech was one on Hong Kong enduring as a financial hub, suggesting that China is winning its bet that sanctions will be weak enough to vindicate its crackdown

Pompeo issued a striking clarion call for the West to make a moral stand against the evils of Chinese communism: “General Secretary Xi is not destined to tyrannize inside and outside of China forever, unless we allow it.” His words may prove to be even more welcome within China’s population and some elements of the regime. After this remarkably candid and historic speech, Xi and his colleagues have additional reason to question the wisdom of the aggressive course they are pursuing.

Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Global Taiwan Institute.