Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is putting out the warning call on China’s hegemonic goals and said the country may be working behind the scenes to acquire an “empire” through economic, rather than militaristic means.
During an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Pompeo said Chinese President Xi Jinping is utilizing predatory loans and bribes to expand their own interests into other countries. According to Pompeo, the Chinese government is seeking infrastructure expansion opportunities in other countries and is pouring funds into the projects to then gain access to them.
This strategy, Pompeo said, could have implications for Chinese expansion throughout the Pacific and even into the Western Hemisphere.
“When China shows up with bribes to senior leaders in countries in exchange for infrastructure projects that will harm the people of that nation, then this idea of a treasury-run empire build is something that I think would be bad for each of those countries and certainly presents risk to American interests,” Pompeo said, via the Washington Examiner. “We intend to oppose them at every turn.”
Xi has made a “Belt and Road Initiative” — infrastructure investments on land and at sea all around the world — a central theme of his foreign policy in recent years. U.S. officials perceive the construction as a platform for the communist regime to project power around the world, especially as China gains control of strategically-located ports and railways. Beijing defends the spending as ‘win-win’ investments in locales that are not drawing Western financing.
China is disputing Pompeo’s claim and instead say the United States is standing in the way of China giving “assistance” to these other countries.
Lu Kang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, defended the economic contributions and instead blamed the U.S.: “The U.S. has fabricated lies time and again and made irresponsible remarks out of its political needs, which is very disappointing.”
And, “The relevant country, if it had failed to serve that hope, should at least refrain from obstructing assistance provided to these developing countries by others or even serving its political ends at the cost of the benefits of the people of developing countries.”
Republican Congressman and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Ted Yoho said the Chinese government could utilize their strategy to score crucial ports and locations in the Western Hemisphere.
“They’re positioning themselves in all the different ports — in the Straits of Malacca, in the South China Sea,” said Yoho. “Then you bolster that up with ships in El Salvador, possible ships in Cuba, possible ships in Haiti. … I think it’s a big cause for concern.”
A Wall Street Journal op-ed details some actions the Trump administration could take to prevent Chinese expansion:
Deterrent measures fall into two categories: actions the U.S. can take unilaterally, and steps that must be taken together with regional allies. East Asian countries increasingly are joining the U.S. in believing that a triumphant China will “treat us like dogs,” as one Asian diplomat remarked to me recently.
For starters, the U.S. Navy needs to expand its fleet. The Trump administration has committed to increasing the number of active ships to 355 from about 280 today. But this expansion must be carried out by 2030, rather than along the 30-year timeline the White House proposed. An accelerated naval buildup would give China proof of U.S. intent to resist its regional ambitions, speaking to President Xi Jinping in a language that needs no translation.
The U.S. could begin by commissioning an additional carrier strike group to be forward deployed in the Indo-Pacific region. The one U.S. aircraft carrier now based in Japan cannot cover the vast Indo-Pacific single-handed, nor can it provide the striking force the U.S. would need in a war. An additional carrier strike group would also allow the U.S. to increase patrols of the South China Sea, including the Taiwan Strait’s international waters. Involving U.S. allies in these patrols would advance like-minded nations’ interest in protecting freedom of navigation.
According to the op-ed, posturing military units also runs the risk of Chinese provocation, something U.S. should be expecting and be willing to respond to.
“America’s advantage in artificial intelligence could enhance its edge in both cyber and kinetic warfare in coming years,” the op-ed adds.
The Trump administration has previously shown it will not turn a blind eye to hegemonic ambitions in countries like Russia and North Korea.