While the country’s attention was fixed on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation these past weeks, a major foreign policy shift has been underway: the Trump administration has finally decided to start treating China like the adversary it is.
It might not make headlines the way a culture war-infused Supreme Court nomination spectacle does these days, but President Trump’s dramatic policy shift on China could mark the beginning of a kind of second Cold War, with far-reaching implications for national security, U.S. foreign policy, and international trade.
Last week in a speech at the Hudson Institute, Vice President Mike Pence issued a scathing indictment of Beijing’s “debt diplomacy” through the Belt and Road initiative, its aggressive military expansion in the South China Sea, human rights abuses, and growing efforts to meddle in the U.S. midterm elections.
“What the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country,” Pence said. “And the American people deserve to know it.” He went on to accuse China of economic espionage and a “whole-of-government approach” to “advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States.”
Then on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a tense public exchange with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, who accused the Trump administration of “ceaselessly elevating” tensions over trade, Taiwan, and a host of other things. Pompeo, sitting across the table from Wang, said the United States has a “fundamental disagreement” with Beijing on those issues, and left the country without holding a customary press conference with Wang or meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.