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Trump’s Hypocrisy on China

Summary:
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently called Richard Nixon's opening to China almost 50 years ago a failure, and went on to declare a virtual cold war against the Chinese. But Trump's blustering unilateralism and contempt for democratically elected leaders have left the US unable to forge the alliances Pompeo rightly says it needs. NEW YORK – In a speech last month at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared politely that Nixon had been wrong about China. Opening up to the People’s Republic, in the hope that its Maoist dictatorship, moderated by a warm international embrace, would become freer at home and more cooperative abroad, has ended in failure.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently called Richard Nixon's opening to China almost 50 years ago a failure, and went on to declare a virtual cold war against the Chinese. But Trump's blustering unilateralism and contempt for democratically elected leaders have left the US unable to forge the alliances Pompeo rightly says it needs.

NEW YORK – In a speech last month at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared politely that Nixon had been wrong about China. Opening up to the People’s Republic, in the hope that its Maoist dictatorship, moderated by a warm international embrace, would become freer at home and more cooperative abroad, has ended in failure.

In fact, Nixon never sought to democratize China – he needed Mao’s help to end the Vietnam War and gain leverage over the Soviet Union.

Still, Pompeo’s indictment was long. China is less free now than it was in the 1980s, he claimed. It steals Western industrial secrets, sends government agents masquerading as students, stifles criticism with threats, locks up ethnic minorities and dissidents in concentration camps, blackmails countries into buying Chinese technology used to spy on the United States, and so on. “The free world must triumph over the new tyranny,” Pompeo declared. “We, the freedom-loving nations, must induce China to change…”

Could he be correct about this? Might US President Donald Trump’s administration be on...

Ian Buruma
Editor of The New York Review of Books, author of Theater of Cruelty, Year Zero: A History of 1945, and Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War

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