Mike Pompeo took a sledgehammer swipe at President Xi Jinping’s administration, branding the ruling Communist Party as “corrupt.”
The US Secretary of State made his inflammatory remarks at the Quad summit in Japan earlier this week amid deteriorating diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing.
“As partners in this Quad, it is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption and coercion,” he said.
“We see it in the South and East China Seas, the Mekong, the Himalayas, the Taiwan Strait,” Pompeo added, referring to China’s saber-rattling in multiple theaters of concern.
So what is the Quad grouping?
Rolled out in 2007, the Quadrilateral Initiative, or Quad for short, comprises the United States, Japan, India and Australia. The idea was first floated by then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the face of a rapidly rising China.
Naturally, Beijing has taken offense to the organization and, in particular, US meddling in its own backyard.
Before Pompeo’s trip to Tokyo, Xi’s government condemned what it called “exclusive cliques” that target the world’s second-largest economy.
What was Beijing’s reaction after Pompeo’s broadside?
Furious. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated the Politburo’s line of “peaceful” development.
“We hope relevant countries can proceed from the common interests of countries in the region, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace, stability and development, not the other way around,” Wang said.
Still, his comments came as China flexes its military muscle in the Indo-Pacific region, cracks down on human rights in Hong Kong, Inner Mongolia and the closed province of Xinjiang, which is home to millions of Muslim Uighurs.
Other flashpoint issues include a major independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, which officially surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January. Predatory trading practices have also been raised by the US and the European Union, while Washington has launched a full-blown technology war with Beijing.
How did this play out with the rest of the Quad club?
A tricky question. The majority of its Asian allies have been quietly delighted that the US has finally woken up to China’s “bullying.”
But many prefer a softly softly approach as they fear antagonizing Beijing could trigger a trade backlash with trillions of dollars at stake.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne captured the tone perfectly.
“We emphasized that, especially during a pandemic, it was vital that states work to ease tensions and avoid exacerbating long-standing disputes, work to counter disinformation and refrain from malicious cyberspace activity,” she said in an oblique reference to Chinese-sponsored cyberattacks without naming and shaming Beijing.
The big question is where do we go from here?
Well, the summers of love with China’s ruling class are definitely over. The chill factor has set in among Quad countries, while a bitter diplomatic wind is starting to whip through Southeast Asia nations.
Everyone it seems is feeling the effects of the Sino-American New Cold War.
“Pompeo has repeatedly fabricated lies about China and maliciously created political confrontation,” the Chinese embassy in Japan said in a statement.
“We once again urge the US to abandon its Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice, stop unprovoked accusations and attacks against China and treat relations with China in a constructive manner,” it added.