US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday warned Europeans they would abandon their values by embracing China, in a scathing denunciation of Beijing just two days after talks on trans-Pacific tensions.
In his first remarks since his closed-door talks with a senior Chinese official in Hawaii, Pompeo indicated that his views have not softened as he denounced Beijing as a “rogue actor” bent on global domination.
There is “no way to straddle these alternatives without abandoning who we are. Democracies dependent on authoritarians are not worthy of the name,” Pompeo told a forum in Denmark by videoconference.
He said he similarly had a “very frank” message over his six hours of talks Wednesday with senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi.
Pompeo said he told Yang the United States was closely watching China’s actions — including its recent deadly border clash with US friend India.
“America is engaging in a response to Chinese Communist Party aggression in a way that America has not done for the past 20 years,” Pompeo told the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, referring to President Donald Trump’s administration.
Pompeo renewed calls on Europeans to shun Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which he called the arm of the communist “surveillance state,” and said Beijing was “flagrantly attacking sovereignty” through its port investments in Greece and Spain.
“We must take off the golden blinders of economic ties and see that the China challenge isn’t just at the gates — it’s in every capital,” he said.
“Every investment from a Chinese state-owned enterprise should be viewed with suspicion.”
Pompeo has been especially harsh about China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Copenhagen speech, he charged that Beijing “lied about the coronavirus and let it spread to the rest of the world.”
China — as well as Trump’s domestic critics — say that the US administration has been looking for scapegoats to deflect from its own handling of COVID-19, which has killed far more people in the United States than in any other country.
Pompeo also renewed his stiff criticism of China both over a draft security law in Hong Kong and its mass incarceration of some one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.
Evoking memories of genocide in Europe, Pompeo again called the detentions a “human right violation on a scale we haven’t seen since World War II.”
Activists say China has launched a massive brainwashing campaign to homogenize minorities; Beijing contends it is offering vocational training to discourage Islamic radicalism.
Pompeo also raised concerns about China in virtual talks Monday with the European Union’s 27 foreign ministers.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who also took part in the talks, said afterward that the United States and Europeans should set up a special dialogue to discuss their approaches toward China.
The Europeans have had a mixed reaction to US appeals for a tougher stance, refusing a complete ban on Huawei — which has taken the lead in building fifth-generation technology.
But Pompeo said he saw hopeful signs. He hailed Sweden for blocking Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government-backed schools that have proliferated at Western universities, and pointed to open criticism of Beijing’s policies in the Czech Republic.
Calling for more European statements, Pompeo said: “Let’s not leave any confusion about the choice we’re making. Let’s choose freedom.”
Despite Pompeo’s hawkish tone, Trump’s former national security advisor, John Bolton, in an explosive new book writes that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for re-election help and voiced approval for Uighur detention camps.
Pompeo denounced his former colleague as a “traitor.”