China lashed out angrily on Monday at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for criticizing Chinese policy in South America. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Pompeo’s remarks were “lies” and accused him of using “wantonly slanderous, deliberately instigating, irresponsible, and unreasonable” rhetoric.
During an interview about the situation in Venezuela on Friday, Pompeo said the idea of “the totalitarian, Orwellian state of communism is being rejected by the people of South America” and called it “glorious.”
“We’re convinced that democratic values and institutions, the things that we care so deeply about – basic human rights, things that don’t exist in China – I think the South American people see that. They see the horrors of a million Uighurs being held in China. They see the Orwellian information state, the police state that China is becoming,” he said.
Pompeo said the United States has no problem with private Chinese companies competing for business in South America, but warned that many “private entities” bring “malign activity” from the Chinese government with them.
He specifically mentioned security concerns about telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies like Huawei, warning that when such equipment is used, “your information is in the hands of President Xi and the People’s Liberation Army in China.”
While touring South America over the weekend, Pompeo warned China’s trade activities are “deeply connected to their national security mission, their technological goals, their desire to steal intellectual property, to have forced technology transfer, to engage in activity that is not economic.”
Pompeo slammed Beijing for supporting dictator Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, calling Maduro a “power-hungry tyrant who has brought ruin to his country and to his people.”
“China’s bankrolling of the Maduro regime helped precipitate and prolong the crisis in that country,” he said.
Pompeo said China is “hypocritical calling for non-intervention in Venezuela’s affairs” because “their own financial interventions have helped destroy that country.”
A furious spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry shot back that Pompeo was attempting to “slander China and sow discord between China and Latin American countries.”
“The U.S. has long been treating Latin America as its backyard, where it would resort to willful use of pressure, threat or even subversion. People can tell right from wrong. I am sure Latin American countries are fully capable of telling a true friend from a false one who is ignoring rules and spreading chaos,” said spokesman Lu Kang.
“A lie will remain a lie, even if repeated a thousand time. Monsieur Pompeo might as well take a break,” Lu said.
China’s ambassador to Chile, Xu Bu, added that Pompeo has “lost his mind.”
China’s state-run Global Times pitched in with an editorial on Sunday comparing China’s supposedly benevolent activity in South America with the U.S. commitment to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea:
Pompeo’s statements reflect that the U.S. still treats Latin America as its backyard. But such an old concept, which originated with the Monroe Doctrine, is no longer in line with Latin America’s political and economic situation at all. Besides, how much is the U.S. willing to invest to help the region’s development and be a real good partner? Maybe Washington is only paying lip service.
The U.S. is turning a deaf ear to the successful China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Latin America. It is the natural extension of the BRI to reach Latin America. China’s projects in Latin America are all development projects which aim at constructing infrastructure and boosting connectivity. None of these projects targets the US. In fact, these BRI projects will also benefit the U.S. because highways and ports in the region are also useful to the U.S. If the U.S.’ backyard can be highly developed, won’t that benefit the US as well?
However, this is not what the U.S. did in China’s backyard – the South China Sea. Washington aims at boosting its military presence in the South China Sea to threaten China. What if China also deploys military forces in Latin America?
The Global Times accused the United States of attempting to “trick” Latin American countries out of doing profitable business with China and taking advantage of the Belt and Road program to develop their infrastructure.
“Latin American people know what is good for them. China’s investment and projects will benefit the region, and no amount of Washington’s coaxing will change the facts,” the Chinese paper wrote.