When former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo huddled with a group of House Republicans to lend support for legislation cracking down on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the discussion repeatedly veered to another foreign policy arena: China.
During a closed-door luncheon hosted by the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives, Pompeo was peppered with questions about China. Republicans in attendance wanted to know what the United States should do to counter Beijing and asked for Pompeo’s assessment of President Joe Biden’s handling of national security challenges emanating from the Asia-Pacific region compared to his old boss, former President Donald Trump. Not all of it was negative.
“Frankly, the rhetoric has been good, but it’s deeds that will ultimately matter,” Pompeo said this week. “Everybody’s got a good plan until they get hit in the face, right? The Chinese will absolutely … hit us in the face, and then we will see if this administration has the backbone to do the right thing.”
Pompeo described “the central challenge of our time” to be the effort by the Chinese Communist Party to supplant the U.S. as the globe’s preeminent economic and military power. “It’s not just an external threat,” the former secretary said. “They’re here.” Pompeo recalled the Trump administration’s decision to close the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas, because it was a hub for Beijing’s espionage activities.
“There is enormous efforts of influence operations here that the Chinese Communist Party carries out in the United States,” Pompeo added, urging lawmakers to work with elected officials in their districts, including city council members, county commissions, and school board members, to help identify seemingly benign projects and investments funded by Beijing that are fronts for spying. “The Chinese are attempting to influence them all. It is deep. It is broad. It is continuing.”
The Republican Study Committee, led this year by Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, has become a popular stop on the campaign trail in the shadow primary underway for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Pompeo previously addressed a meeting of the group’s steering committee, so has former Vice President Mike Pence, a former chairman of the committee. And although he claims not to be a potential candidate, so has Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been a guest for the weekly luncheon, as has Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who worked with the group on China policy. Florida Sen. Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has collaborated with the caucus on legislation that would overhaul election law. Those scheduled to headline future gatherings include former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
This past week, Pompeo fielded a smattering of questions about foreign policy issues other than China. Some asked about Russia and its apparently temporary military buildup on the border with Ukraine, Biden’s plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 of this year, and the danger of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Others asked about immigration and the surge of illegal crossings at the Mexican border since Trump left office.
But for the most part, the hot-button topic was China, with one House Republican asking Pompeo if Beijing can be discouraged from invading Taiwan. The U.S. ally is a democratic island nation of 24 million people situated approximately 100 miles off the Chinese coast. China considers Taiwan sovereign Chinese territory and expects that it will eventually reunite with the mainland, as was the case with Hong Kong.
“We’ve got to get others to help us,” Pompeo said. “So we strengthened India, Japan, the Australians, and the Quad. We built it. We made it stronger. We were on the cusp of making it even bigger. It looks like the [Biden] administration is headed down that same path. Kudos to them. We should applaud them when they do that. That will be important.”
But Pompeo cautioned that deterring China would depend most on U.S. credibility and Biden avoiding the mistake of talking tough about confronting Beijing but failing to back up his rhetoric with similarly aggressive policy.
“To the extent you make commitments and don’t live up to them, that is the most dangerous thing you can do,” he said. “Deterrence depends on credible statements backed up by real actions.”
Source: Washington Examiner : ‘They’re here’: Mike Pompeo warns House Republicans to keep lookout for Chinese espionage