At Nixon library, Pompeo declares China engagement a failure

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lays a wreath at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Yorba Linda, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration took a hammer to one of the most significant Republican foreign policy achievements in the past five decades on Thursday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring U.S. engagement with China a dismal failure.

As the administration sharpens its already harsh criticism of China with distinctly political overtones ahead of November’s election, Pompeo traveled to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, on Thursday to pointedly lament that the former president’s good and noble intentions in opening China to the world had come to naught and must be abandoned.

Nearly 50 years after Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to China, Pompeo used the symbolism of the venue to accuse the Chinese of taking advantage of that opportunity to lie, cheat and steal their way to power and prosperity. Pompeo called for the free world to “induce” change in China, making an overt appeal for a new coalition of democratic nations to force the Chinese Communist Party change direction or face isolation. Pompeo said western engagement with China could not continue as it has.

“The free world must triumph over this new tyranny,” he said in speech to an invited audience that included exiled Chinese dissidents. “The old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done. We must not continue it. We must not return to it."

Pompeo’s speech was just the latest in series of Trump administration broadsides against China that have become an almost daily occurrence with Cabinet-level officials from Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General Bill Barr launching harsh criticisms of Beijing. The three men have each delivered public addresses attacking China in recent weeks, as has FBI director Christopher Wray.

Trump, who in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, was playing up his “friendship” and positive relationship with Xi in an apparent effort to preserve trade negotiations with the Chinese, now seems to have signed off on an all-out assault on China. This has come as his polling numbers decline over COVID-19 and he looks to paint his presumed challenger in November’s election, former Vice President Joe Biden, as soft on China.

In his speech Pompeo called on nations to induce change in the Chinese Communist Party's behavior "because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity.”

China has roundly rejected the administration's accusations and taken particular aim at Pompeo, who it has accused of fomenting anti-Chinese sentiment around the world. China maintains that it is only seeking to develop its economy and society for the benefit of its own people and the world.