The title question is an important one that all Americans should think about. The US-China relation, most important one to both nations, is reaching a dangerous state – trade war, closing consulate office, sabre rattling in the South China Sea and worst our top diplomat, Secretary of State, instead of handling US-China relations with diplomacy, is delivering a hostile speech at an open forum attacking China. Secretary Pompeo calls Nixon's 'engagement policy' a mistake and lays out a comprehensive plan targeting China that he says is 'not containment'. After thoroughly reviewing his speech, I am really concerned. Pompeo's China Policy is not a containment but sounds too much like a war plan!
The U.S.-China relation is very complex. China has changed over the past century, rising from a weak dynasty to a strong republic nation. For decades, Chinese people were fighting against foreign invasions while engaging in a long civil revolution under treacherous external interference, not one nation but several including Russia, the U.S. , the U. K., Japan, and more. In contrast to other foreign nations, the U.S., a young republic nation herself, adopted the Monroe Doctrine (beneficial to her nation building) and treated China kinder than the other seven foreign powers did. The U.S. increased her involvement and influence in China as she grew in strength on the world stage through WW I and WW II.
China is a big nation with geographic size comparable to that of the U.S. and a population four times the American population. However, the Chinese revolution was far more difficult than the U.S. revolution considering the invasion and presence of foreign powers in China. Russia, Japan, U.K. Even the U.S. were eager to groom or support a regime to rule China subject to their influence and control. The WW II wiped out Japan’s ambition to conquer China. The U.K. was too severely wounded to make more demand other than holding onto Hong Kong. The U.S. and Russia, each backed a revolutionary Party, the KMT and the CCP respectively. Unfortunate for Chinese people, their civil revolution never ended (from 1900 to present) resulting in a divided nation across the Taiwan Strait.
Post WW II, the CCP succeeded in uniting the Mainland China and the KMT retreated to Taiwan. The U.S. rejected recognition of the PRC established by CCP and stuck with the ROC maintained by KMT in Taiwan. The PRC (CCP China) shed Russia’s control very quickly but ROC was closely allied with the U.S. till today. Chinese Revolution should have been China’s domestic affair free from external influence (just like the U.S. dislodging French influence even though France helped her gaining independence from the U.K.) The U.S. should have let the Chinese people settle her revolution and recognize the final Chinese state. However, the U.S. was under the influence of McCarthyism (anti-communism) at the time, the so called ‘Second Red Scare’. McCarthyism seems to be still the root of our present China policy despite of China’s successful transformation over the past seven decades, through abandoning Lenin-Stalin style communism (with a few bad experiments), embracing capitalism (with some successful economic development programs) and arriving at her own capitalistic socialism or socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Recently, Mike Pompeo, the present Secretary of State, former Director of CIA, the top graduate in his class in West Point Military Academy and a Harvard Law graduate, gave a speech, ‘Communist China and the Free World’s Future’, at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. Pompeo made very apparent in his speech that the U.S. had launched an all out effort to target China, 'not as containment' (as he emphasized) but giving no new strategic term to characterize this effort. His speech recited Trump Administration’s usual rhetoric: “trading abuses”, “stealing American jobs”, “repression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang”, “pirating technologies and IP” and “failed in keeping promises”. He further accused China: “exploiting our free and open society”, “marginalizing Taiwan”, “silencing Human Rights Advocacy”, “sucked away US supply chain”, “forcing Hollywood and US corporations to acquiescence to CCP”, etc.
Pompeo essentially declared that ‘engagement policy’, a mistake, will not make this century a US century, implying that Nixon was wrong in 1967-71 to initiate the ‘engagement’ China policy. He envisioned that the U.S. had to organize her allies and recruit more nations as a group to oppose China. The U.S. could not just get tough with China but had to empower the Chinese people to oppose CCP. Pompeo brought a number of Chinese dissidents to the Nixon library as if their presence (and their warning) was evidence enough for supporting his rhetoric charges against the CCP and enough justification for his plan to incite the Chinese people to distrust the CCP. Pompeo, instead of entertaining any diplomacy to manage the US-China relationship, tried, in his speech, to show his resolve to pick a fight with China and predicted victory. But his speech was not very persuasive on his vision nor his conclusion. This became very apparent from the Q/A session following his speech.
Hugh Hewitt, President of the Nixon Library, asked a number of very intelligent questions (likely collected from interested attendees) to Pompeo. Here are a few with my comments:
- In 1972, the Soviet was isolated and dangerous, Nixon’s strategy to ally China against the Soviet worked eventually, does Russia present an opportunity to the U.S. to battle CCP? Answer: yes. Comment: Don't think so. First, China is not isolated today, having a good trade relationship with over 100 nations. Pompeo may be over confident on isolating China and allying the Soviet.
- Can you deal with Xi? Answer: usual praises for Xi. Comment: Xi is deal-able if the U.S. is rational, but Trump-Pompeo behavior is hardly rational.
- You said our plan is not containment, but it is a fairly comprehensive, multidimensional, ... and relentless objective, isn’t this ‘candor’ dangerous? Answer: True candor is the best policy, not dangerous. Comment: Quoting Sun Tze, war strategist, the tougher the rhetoric, the lesser chance to enact them. The Trump-Pompeo thesis: CCP has no popular support is questionable. Some unofficial surveys give CCP 70-90% approval rating (CIA can verify), the more the U.S. applies antagonism, the higher approval rating the CCP gets.
- Your ‘Distrust but Verify’ model assumes verification is possible, correct? Answer: .... Comment: If candor is the best policy, then Distrust is the worst approach, such contradiction is nonsense if not dangerous.
- Assuming CCP not having people's support is quite a stance to take unless the goal is to ensure diplomatic failure, is that your goal? Answer: We should not ignore the voice of Chinese people. Comment: The 70-90% approval rating is more valuable than the words of a few dissidents Pompeo and Rubio associated with.
- Do American people and media need to reacquaint with Marxist-Leninism belief (gone from our vocabulary)... becoming CCP belief. Answer: We must make sure that we don’t for a moment think that they don’t believe it. Comment: The CCP ideology evolves with time not like the legacy McCarthyism stubbornly persistent.
China has risen peacefully with no aggression. Contrary to Pompeo’s charges, China’s success was due to CCP’s correct economic policies not thievery. Calling hard working Chinese people thieves will not get them to side with the U.S. Pompeo's rhetoric are stale with no concrete evidence (for international courts). Even if we accept some of the rhetoric on trade, human rights, etc., we can not logically conclude that a hostile China policy is a beneficial policy for the U.S. First, Pompeo said himself that China is not isolated but tightly integrated with the world, there is no assurance that the U.S. can isolate China without hurting herself. Second, CCP has accomplished lifting 800 million people above the poverty line and has produced over-million millionaires (10%/year increase) traveling freely around the world and returning to China. (unlike the dissidents hiding overseas because of criminal charges against them.) Third, China’s rise in economy is due to Chinese people’s diligence and CCP’s successful sequential economic development plans. China’s military development is responding partly to the threat from the West (insecurity) and partly to the needs in maintaining peace and order with her 14 neighboring countries, some hostile and aggressive (defense). China's defense budget is a reasonable 2% of her GDP.
Pompeo wants to terminate engagement with China and calls his China policy “not containment”. He plans to ally a group of nations and incites Chinese people to oppose the CCP government. It sounds too much like a war plan. We American citizens have a right to be concerned and to know more about it!