“President Ronald Reagan said that he dealt with the Soviet Union on the basis of ‘trust but verify’. When it comes to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), I say we must distrust and verify”. With these words in a major speech delivered at the Richard M. Nixon Library on July 23, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turned the page to the next phase of America’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China, ending a five-decade experiment beginning with President Nixon in the hope that the Chinese Communists would evolve into some semblance of Western-style democracy and assimilate into the world order of nations. So has this now become a “cold war”? By most definitions, I think so, but listen to Pompeo: “This isn’t about containment. Don’t buy that. It’s about a complex new challenge that we’ve never faced before. The Soviet Union was closed off from the free world. Communist China is already within our borders.”
No one is suggesting that this cold war necessarily become a hot one, but it has certainly accelerated far beyond a trade war in which a deal can be struck so that everyone can go back to their business as usual. This is a major long-term clash between two incompatible systems–free market democracy vs. a mercantilist/increasingly totalitarian/often criminal state, and only one system will survive intact. This is a fight about whose century the 21st will be–who will define it, what model will prevail–and at the end of the day we’re in effect demanding that China put its entire business model on the table; every component is at stake. Pompeo again: “We must admit a hard truth that should guide us in the years and decades to come, that if we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simple won’t get it done.” Are you listening U. S. Chamber of Commerce, National Basketball Association, Apple, Google, Amazon, Silicon Valley, Hollywood?
Finally, his message carried some urgency along with hope: “Securing our freedoms from the CCP is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because our founding principles give us that opportunity.” Let’s hope that we have the courage to defend them.