US abandons China appeasement policy, outsources hostilities

Updated on Jul 24, 2020 10:16 AM IST

When asked if he was urging nations to pick between the US and China, in line with a choice the US presented to the world in the 1940s between itself and the USSR, Pompeo said the choice for them was between “freedom and tyranny”.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo addresses virtual 45th US-India Business Council 'India Ideas Summit', in Washington on Wednesday.(ANI File Photo)
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo addresses virtual 45th US-India Business Council 'India Ideas Summit', in Washington on Wednesday.(ANI File Photo)
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo on Thursday repudiated decades-old American policy of engaging communist China to change it as a failure and called for an international alliance of countries to take it from here, framing it as a choice for them between freedom and tyranny.

“The old paradigm of blind engagement with China has failed,” Pompeo said in a widely anticipated policy speech at a legacy California library run by the foundation of late President Richard Nixon, who re-established diplomatic ties with China and paved the way for its opening with a historic visit in 1972.

“If the free world doesn’t change Communist China — (it) will surely change us,,” Pompeo added, blithely outsourcing Trump administration’s political beef with China.

The Thursday speech was the fourth in a formatted series by senior members of the Trump administration framing deteriorating relations with China, marked by a slew of punitive measures, including most recently, the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, under allegations it was being used as an intelligence gathering hub.

The earlier three were delivered by National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien who had focussed on ideological underpinnings of the Chinese Communist Party; Attorney General William Barr had addressed business and trade ties and FBI director Christopher Wray spoke on intelligence and hacking. Pompeo wrapped it up with the widely anticipated speech Thursday.

The top US diplomat said, citing Nixon, the purpose of engaging with China was to “induce change”. The thinking among policymakers then was that as China became more prosperous it would become “freer at home” and “friendlier abroad”. It did not quite happen that way.

“The kind of engagement we have been pursuing has not brought the kind of change in China that President Nixon hoped to induce,” Pompeo said, adding, “Whatever the reason, China today is increasingly authoritarian at home, and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom abroad.”

Nations must change the way they deal with China. “We cannot treat this incarnation of China as a normal country,” Pompeo said, adding the United States cannot do it alone because the Chinese have spread far too wide and deep into the world, unlike the Soviet Union, which had remained closed.

There is a need for “a new grouping of like-minded nations - a new alliance of democracies”. He did not specify which nations. In a question-answer session following the speech, the secretary of state said these nations will have the backing of the US for sure.

When asked if he was urging nations to pick between the US and China, in line with a choice the US presented to the world in the 1940s between itself and the USSR, Pompeo said the choice for them was between “freedom and tyranny”.

“If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the CCP (the Chinese Communist Party), whose actions are the primary challenge to the free world,” he had said in his speech, as he was laying out the threat the world faced form China. President Xi Jinping “Xi isn’t destined to tyrannize inside and outside of China forever, unless we let him”.

The secretary of state also argued for involving Chinese people. in changing the regime — not overthrow it.

“We must also engage and empower the Chinese people...a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party.” he said. He has been meeting Chinese dissidents and victims and survivors of Chinese oppression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and some of them were present in the audience at the invitation-only event.

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