US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at China on Thursday and said Washington and its allies must use "more creative and assertive ways" to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways, calling it the "mission of our time."
Speaking at the Nixon Library in President Richard Nixon's birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, Pompeo said the former US leader's worry about what he had done by opening the world to China's Communist Party in the 1970s had been prophetic.
"President Nixon once said he feared he had created a 'Frankenstein' by opening the world to the CCP," Pompeo said. "And here we are."
Nixon, who died in 1994 and was president from 1969-74, opened the way for the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with Communist China in 1979 through a series of contacts, including a visit to Beijing in 1972.
Pompeo delivered this speech after Washington's surprise order this week for China to close its Houston consulate.
In direct retaliation, China on Friday ordered the United States to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu, as relations between the two world powers deteriorated further.
China had warned it would retaliate after it was unexpectedly given 72 hours – until Friday – to vacate its Houston consulate, and had urged Washington to reconsider.
"The US move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-US Consular Convention. It gravely harmed China-US relations," China's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China informed the US Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the US Consulate General in Chengdu," it said.
The US Department of State and the US embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
No more 'blind engagement' with China
Pompeo called for an end to "blind engagement" with China and repeated frequently leveled US charges about its unfair trade practices, human rights abuses and efforts to infiltrate American society.
He said China's military had became "stronger and more menacing" and the approach to Beijing should be "distrust and verify," adapting President Ronald Reagan's "trust but verify" mantra about the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
"The truth is that our policies – and those of other free nations – resurrected Chinas failing economy, only to see Beijing bite the international hands that were feeding it," Pompeo said.
"The freedom-loving nations of the world must induce China to change … in more creative and assertive ways, because Beijings actions threaten our people and our prosperity."
Recalling remarks he made after meeting British leaders in London this week, Pompeo said "maybe it's time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies," while adding: "If the free world doesn't change, Communist China will surely change us."
Pompeo said "securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time," and America was perfectly positioned to lead it.
He said one NATO ally, which he did not name, was unwilling to stand up for freedom in Hong Kong because it feared restricted access to China's market.
While some conservative commentators praised Pompeo's speech on social media and elsewhere, some other analysts were not impressed.
Scott Kennedy, of Washingtons Center for Strategic and International Studies, said cooperation with other democracies on China would be easier said than done, given the Trump administrations record of dealing with allies.
"How do you form a united front against China when the U.S. is bullying its allies, trashing multilateral institutions and pushing an economic decoupling (from China) that no one else supports?” he said.
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