The White House on Wednesday issued a broad-scale attack on Beijing’s predatory economic policies, military buildup, disinformation campaigns and human rights violations.
The 20-page report, issued on the eve of the annual session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, does not signal a shift in US policy, said a senior US official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the report and spoke only on the condition of anonymity, but it expands on US President Donald Trump’s get-tough rhetoric that he hopes will resonate with voters angry about China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left tens of millions of Americans out of work.
“The media’s focus on the current pandemic risks missing the bigger picture of the challenge that’s presented by the Chinese Communist Party,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said before the White House released its report.
“China’s been ruled by a brutal, authoritarian regime, a communist regime since 1949. For several decades, we thought the regime would become more like us — through trade, scientific exchanges, diplomatic outreach, letting them in the World Trade Organization as a developing nation. That didn’t happen,” he said. “We greatly underestimated the degree to which Beijing is ideologically and politically hostile to free nations. The whole world is waking up to that fact.”
While pushing back on China, Trump has sometimes uttered contradictory statements. He has talked about having a great personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), yet has repeatedly denounced China for not doing more to stop the coronavirus from spreading across the world.
He criticizes China, then say he wants Beijing to sign phase 2 of a US-China trade deal, and join the US and Russia in a three-way nuclear arms control treaty.
Late on Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter that China’s “massive disinformation campaign” is intended to help former US vice president Joe Biden win November’s US presidential election.
In the past 20 years, the US believed that if it opened its markets wider, invested more money in China, and provided greater access to top US technology and training for Chinese military officers that somehow this would cause China to liberalize, the US official said.
Instead, China is more authoritarian than at any time since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 and the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly asserting its political ideas across the globe, they said.
The US and China established diplomatic relations in 1979.
“More than 40 years later, it has become evident that this approach underestimated the will of the Chinese Communist Party to constrain the scope of economic and political reform in China,” the report says. “Over the past two decades, reforms have slowed, stalled, or reversed.”
Under Xi, Chinese officials have purged political opposition; bloggers, activists and lawyers have been unjustly prosecuted; stringent controls have been imposed to censor not only media, but universities, businesses and non-governmental organizations; citizens and corporations have been targeted with surveillance; and people perceived as dissidents have been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and abuse, the report says.
“Xi’s decision to remove presidential term limits, effectively extending his tenure indefinitely, epitomized these trends,” it says.
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