The Communist Party’s simmering antipathy toward Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – which was on full display earlier this month during an unprecedented public confrontation between Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart during a meeting in Beijing – boiled over once again this week as a series of editorials in China’s Global Times and China Daily newspapers attacked the secretary of state over remarks he made during a recent tour of Latin America, where he warned about the dangers of China’s so-called “debt diplomacy.”
Per Reuters, Pompeo met heads of state in Panama and Mexico during a Latin American tour late last week. And during one brief meeting with reporters, Pompeo warned during a visit to Mexico City that “when China comes calling it’s not always to the good of your citizens” referring to China’s strategy of extending cheap credit, then seizing assets – like they did with a port in Sri Lanka – that will help further the country’s neocolonialist ambitions.
“When they show up with deals that seem to be too good to be true it’s often the case that they, in fact, are,” he said on Thursday in Mexico City, according to comments posted on the US State Department’s website.
Though Pompeo clarified that the US has nothing against legitimate Chinese investments.
“When they show up with a straight-up, legitimate investment that’s transparent and according to the rule of law, that’s called competition and it’s something that the United States welcomes,” said Pompeo. “But when they show up with deals that seem to be too good to be true it’s often the case that they, in fact, are.”
Of course, Pompeo isn’t the only senior Trump administration official to criticize these aggressive tactics. Mike Pence centered his criticism of China’s economic aggression around the country’s strategy of using credit as a tool to entrench its global dominance and further expand its One Belt One Road global development strategy.
But in an editorial published Monday, the state-run China Daily newspaper said Pompeo’s comments were “ignorant and malicious” and that criticisms surrounding the country’s use of “debt traps” were false.
“Pompeo’s latest undisguised message to Panama and other countries not to participate in China-proposed Belt and Road projects lays bare the U.S. condescending and bullying manner to the region,” said the English-language China Daily.
“Washington continually tries this tired old tactic of trying to pin suspicions about China’s motives on the Belt and Road so as hinder its advancement,” the newspaper added.
The Global Times said in a separate editorial that Pompeo’s comments were “disrespectful” and accused the US of “trying to drive a wedge” between China and Latin America.
“For years, Latin American countries have been pursuing peace and development, on which, however, the U.S. did not offer much support. Latin American countries depend on the U.S. economy, but the U.S. does not make the region rich and prosperous.”
“Relations between China and Latin America are based on mutual respect and equality. As China is winning trust and support from Latin America, the U.S. feels lost and is trying to drive a wedge.”
There’s a hint of irony in these criticisms, because while the US has long maintained strong political influence in the region, more recently, China has been making inroads that have driven several Latin American countries away from the US sphere of influence. Over the past two years, three Latin American countries – El Salvador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic – have switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing. And China’s money-for-oil loans have essentially kept Venezuela’s disintegrating economy on life support. America’s dominance of the region may be nearing its twilight – no matter what Pompeo does or doesn’t say.