Mike Pompeo sets agenda for a new Cold War with China. Russia will be key

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Jul 25, 2020 01:21 PM IST

How the US administration’s China policy spelt out by Mike Pompeo would play out would be hugely dependent on the outcome in Donald Trump’s re-election bid this November

On the day his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was goading the world to rise up against the tyranny of Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump dialled his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the inclusion of Beijing in future talks on strategic arms control, oil security and Iran developments.

Mike Pompeo’s speech outlining the Trump administration approach on China marks a turning point in relations between the two giants(AFP)
Mike Pompeo’s speech outlining the Trump administration approach on China marks a turning point in relations between the two giants(AFP)

According to diplomats based in Washington and Moscow, this was President Trump’s fifth call to President Putin in the past two months as Russian Federation is the key to holding a rampaging China accountable in the long term interests of global peace.

While the US President understands the importance of Russia in handling Beijing, he faces stiff resistance from the cold warriors and anti-Trump activists in Washington who still see Moscow, not China as the enemy number 1. President Trump’s conversation on Iran was to dissuade President Putin from supporting Tehran who wants to join hands with China for a long term anti-US alliance.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on his part, virtually upended the 1970s Nixon-Kissinger doctrine of engaging China in the belief that Beijing rulers would assimilate in the global comity of nations. The Nixon-Kissinger engagement of China was at the cost of US relations with India as Washington held New Delhi responsible for the division of Pakistan in 1971 and moved the USS carrier Enterprise in opposition to the move.

By saying that his past army record during the Cold War taught him that Communists always lie, Secretary Pompeo made it clear that the new mantra with Beijing was “distrust and verify,” refitting President Ronald Regan’s ‘trust but verify’ slogan vis-a-vis Soviet Union through the 1980s to present day China.

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General Secretary Xi Jinping is not destined to tyrannize inside and outside of China forever, unless we allow it….maybe it is time for a new grouping of like minded nations, a new alliance of democracies,” Pompeo said.

While it is early days for Pompeo’s statement to be translated on ground, it is quite evident that China will do everything to ensure that President Trump does not return to power in November. His Secretary of State did sound like US diplomat George F Kennan, who sent an 8,000-word telegram to the US State Department in February 1946 - the now-famous ‘long telegram’ - where he articulated the US philosophy of “containment” to deal with the Soviet Union.

Pompeo said he wasn’t advocating containment because the challenge facing the US and the world from China was much more complex. “The USSR was closed off from the free world. Communist China is already within our borders,” he said.

Identifying China as a clear and present danger, Mike Pompeo turned President Nixon’s statement that “ world cannot be safe until China changes” on its head, saying that the world must change the Chinese Communist Party or China will change us as it is happening in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Following up on US National Security Advisor Richard O’ Brien, FBI Director Chris Wray and Attorney General William Barr’s caustic remarks on China, Secretary Pompeo has set the agenda for the dawn of a new Cold War. The last one ended with the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1991. Only this time the enemy is China.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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