Pompeo ready to undermine any country he doesn’t like
Mike Pompeo | Andrew Harnik/AP

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is sounding more like a Toy Story character every day: Pull a string, hear one of seven prerecorded phrases.

But what’s coming out of his mouth is far more dangerous — and yes I am including Woody’s catchphrase, “Somebody’s poisoned the waterhole.” Pompeo’s phrasebook may be limited, but it’s potent; he’s got a prefab set of arguments designed to undermine any country he, National Security Advisor John Bolton and US President Donald Trump have decided they don’t like.

And when they’re not collectively scheming to usurp the governments of Venezuela, Iran or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — busy work for any imperialist — their baleful eye turns to China.

“We’ve watched them engage in a significant arms buildup, not only in the quantity of arms but in their lethality, their capability, and capacity,” Pompeo said about the People’s Liberation Army in an interview with FOX Business last month. The intent of such a statement is clear: Scaremonger about China as a means of shoring up domestic support and xenophobia, while also trying to convince the rest of the world China is a country to be feared rather than a good-faith partner.

Unfortunately for him, this analysis doesn’t pass a basic smell test. As Pompeo would have it, the country currently bombing seven others and looking for any pretext to invade Iran or Venezuela is a more reliable partner than the one which hasn’t been at war in 40 years — never mind the US’ abrogation of an ever-increasing list of international treaties and agreements. A careful weighing of the facts can only lead to one conclusion: If there’s one global actor worth distrusting, it’s the United States. Yet the narrative-spinning continues, bald-faced, with what can only be charitably described as a casual relationship with the truth.

The sheer audacity of these assertions is staggering. US officials seem to think they operate in a vacuum, where the actions of their government have no real impact on the rest of the world. They have never considered, it would appear, that military advancements and buildups happen as a direct response to their own infinitely expanding armed forces. The US spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined, and adds billions more to those already massive appropriations every year. It uses that military power to exert its will on countries with no hope of defending themselves, and we need only look at history to see example after example. Ask an Iraqi, Libyan or Cuban how well the US “security umbrella” has treated them.

Yet when countries who have the resources to avoid this fate modernize and improve their military readiness they are deemed “aggressors” or, in an act of cosmic-level irony, “imperialist”. For some reason, this claim isn’t met with the dismissive scoffing it deserves. Credulous — or complicit — media and political figures go along with it because that’s simply what’s done. Just as previous administrations sold wanton slaughter to the people with promises of spreading “democracy” or “human rights”, the current one is building a case against its targets with a series of allegations, each more ridiculous than the last.

Perhaps most egregious is the oft-repeated notion these perceived enemy countries aren’t responsible for their own innovations and have only gotten as far as they have by stealing. The notion a country could not happen upon a technological advancement without any help from a “superior” one is a racist, paternalistic shibboleth that remains, perplexingly, unquestioned by the mainstream press. The explanation here is not so mysterious: It’s taken as a given in those circles, too.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a reporter, editor or academic who won’t admit — off-the-record, naturally — they think Trump is right on China and the “stealing” must be stopped.

When the US holds forth about “forced technology transfers”, conjuring scary images of theft at gunpoint, it’s important to remember what they’re actually referring to. Forced technology transfer is illegal under Chinese law, just as it is most everywhere else. What the US is bloviating about are voluntary technology transfers. If a foreign company is interested in operating in China, it agrees to certain rules. Depending on the industry, this might include some sharing of technology. This is strictly discretionary; it’s the price of accessing the Chinese market, and plenty decided they were willing to pay. Cooperation is a perfectly acceptable practice elsewhere, and early technology served as a springboard for China’s current achievements, which are remarkable — as anyone who’s spent time in the country can tell you.

But now that China has begun to pull ahead of its counterparts — most notably reflected in the superior 5G wireless infrastructure being built by companies like Huawei — some big US firms have complained to their friends in the government, infuriated their complacency is costing them after years of easy money and exploitation of cheap labor. Previous administrations served the same interests as the present regime, but people like Trump and Pompeo are especially receptive to the vociferous anger of the capitalist class. Thus, the trade conflict to go along with the military brinksmanship.

No matter how loudly Pompeo and his ilk complain, though, it’s unlikely to have its intended effect. The people of the US tire of the perpetual finger-pointing, and so does the rest of the world. As the influence of a declining hegemon wanes, it will only continue to flail at illusory opponents, making wilder and wilder accusations and running short of breath. Former allies are tuning these tactics out, and eventually, the US will find it has been shouting into empty space, left behind completely. A once bloodthirsty tiger that held the planet in its jaws and ruled through force and carnage will be exposed as little more than folded paper.

I seem to recall an important Chinese figure predicting something like that.


Ian Goodrum
Ian Goodrum

Ian Goodrum is a writer and digital editor for China Daily in Beijing, China.