‘Distrust And Verify’

WASHINGTON: Past American policies of engagement with China have only bolstered the ruling Communist Party and the world must pressure Beijing and liberate the Chinese people, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

“What do the American people have to show for 50 years of engagement with China? The old paradigm of blind engagement with China has failed. We must not continue it. We must not return to it,” Mr. Pompeo said in a major policy address at the Nixon Presidential Library.

President Trump, he said, has adopted a new strategy that emphasizes protecting the American economy from predatory and unfair Chinese policies.

“President Reagan dealt with the Soviets on the basis of ‘trust but verify,’” Mr. Pompeo observed. “When it comes to the [Chinese Communist Party], I say: ‘Distrust and verify.’”

Mr. Pompeo’s speech is the fourth in a series of policy addresses designed to lay out to the American public and international audiences what the Trump administration regards as a growing security, economic and intelligence threat from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), following addresses by White House National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Attorney General William Barr.

Mr. Pompeo stopped short of calling for regime change in Beijing, but challenged democratic countries around the globe to stand up to Chinese communism and liberate the Chinese people from its rule.

“Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because of our founding principles,” he said.

He said the Trump administration since 2017 has been working to change how the world understands the nature and goals of China’s communist leadership.

“We cannot treat this incarnation of China as a normal country, just like any other,” he said, arguing that Beijing “treats international agreements as suggestions, as conduits for global dominance.”

President Nixon’s historic opening to China in the 1970s was based on hope that engagement with China — flourishing diplomatic and business ties ­— would produce a moderate, nonthreatening regime in Beijing. Successive administrations, both Republican and Democrat, adopted conciliatory China approaches in the hope of producing an era of cooperation and friendship.

Today, however, Mr. Pompeo said, “we sit wearing masks and watching the pandemic’s body count rise because the CCP failed in its promises to the world, … reading new headlines of repression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, … seeing staggering statistics of Chinese trade abuses that cost American jobs and strike blows to our companies, … watching the Chinese military grow stronger and more menacing.”

Beijing was granted special economic treatment for decades “only to see the CCP insist on silence over its human rights abuses as the price of admission for Western companies in China,” he added.

Instead of a more democratic-oriented China, the Chinese system is increasingly authoritarian at home and “more aggressive in its hostility to freedom abroad,” he said, “ripping off” American technology and seeking to control the South China Sea and threaten freedom of commerce.

Critics of the new Trump policies have argued for continued dialogue with China simply for the sake of continued talking, Mr. Pompeo noted. The secretary of state said the U.S. wants dialogue with Beijing’s leaders, but the conversations have to be different.

The first step, he said, is to understand the Chinese Communist Party and its military, the People’s Liberation Army.

“If there is one thing I learned about my time in the army, it is that Communists always lie. But the biggest lie is that the Chinese Communist Party speaks for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed and scared to speak out,” Mr. Pompeo said.

The PLA’s purpose, he said “is to uphold the absolute rule of the Chinese Communist Party elites and expand a Chinese empire, not protect the Chinese people.”

Mr. Pompeo in his speech called for a new approach, engaging the Chinese people who he said are not the same as the 90 million-member CCP that took power in 1949.

“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, acknowledging several pro-democracy Chinese activists in the audience. “That begins with in-person diplomacy. I’ve met Chinese men and women of great talent and diligence wherever I go.”

China’s rulers fear the Chinese people and their honest views more than any foreign threat and fears losing its grip on power, Mr. Pompeo said.

“We can’t ignore the Chinese people any longer,” Mr. Pompeo said. “They know as well as anyone that we can never go back to the status quo of engagement on the CCP’s terms.”

Mr. Pompeo warned that unless the world changes communist China, it will force its system on the world.

“There can be no return to past practices just because they’re comfortable or convenient,” he said.