As the top diplomat of the world’s sole superpower, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ought to promote global peace and stability.
Instead, he has spent much of his tenure in the past two years on bashing China and stoking division and chaos in the international community.
Pompeo is no fool. He finished top in his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point and was a rather successful businessman and lawyer before entering politics.
He must have anticipated enormous benefits by launching a boisterous anti-China campaign, even if it meant sacrificing the interests of the American people.
Boosting the incumbent U.S. administration’s re-election odds in November has become an urgent task. Under the watch of the current White House, about 5 million have been infected in the pandemic and over 150,000 lost their lives in the country so far.
In the meantime, the knock-on effects of the outbreak have led to unprecedented job losses and a sharp economic downturn.
The result: the administration’s disapproval ratings have risen sharply. Finding a scapegoat is the most handy option for an anxious Pompeo, as well as other like-minded China hawks in the administration with elections only 90 days away. China is the target. No surprise there.
Pompeo also sees an opportunity to promote his own political ambitions by attacking China with outright lies. That’s because acting tough on China can help promote his popularity among America’s conservative voting base.
Being an ambitious career politician, he has quite a history of staging melodramatic political showmanship for personal political gain.
His rise to prominence as a new political star in Washington from a freshmen congressman by sharply lambasting then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the Benghazi affair is a classic example.
Pompeo’s scandalous Madison Diners in 2018 and off-public-schedule meetings with conservative influentials during work trips have drawn widespread criticism in the United States that the secretary of state has been using public resources to cultivate a supporter base for his own political ambitions. He has in fact turned his office into a launchpad for just that.
Underneath these political calculations lie a hegemonic thinking and Cold-War mentality ingrained in Pompeo that propel him to view China’s development in a you-win-I-lose manner.
In his Nixon library speech late last month, Pompeo sought to frame China as an ideological threat, and coax U.S. allies to form an anti-China alliance, demonstrating that some U.S. politicians are still trying to use the obsolete zero-sum logic to define America’s role in the 21st century world and its relationship with the rest of the international community in an age of globalization.
Pompeo and other China hardliners should bear in mind that engagement, not decoupling, is the right way to manage the most important bilateral relationship in the world. And cooperation, not confrontation, is the only wise choice for both countries – and the world – to better prosper.