Hong Kong crisis: would the US Government take steps to directly intervene?

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AMBASSADOR TICHENOR:  Thank you.  Very well said.  In recent weeks, you have also spoken about how the United States has a long, cherished tradition of friendship with the Chinese people, and that’s still so today.  While there are opportunities in the relationship, to be sure, you have also spoken about how the Trump administration and the United States are taking on the challenges from the People’s Republic of China in a way that the time is calling for.

Could you please speak to what those challenges are and how we in the U.S. and our allies across the world who share our values should and must confront these multifaceted challenges from the PRC head on?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So it’s a complex challenge with China, a challenge that has similarities to what – to challenges America has faced before from authoritarian regimes, but different in material respects as well.  We’ve never had another nation that had five times as many people as we had and an economy that is the scale of what the Chinese had that is interconnected to our economy as ours is with China today.  It is absolutely the case that we have – the people of China are working to make their lives better, and what we’re confronting today is a challenge from the Chinese Communist Party, which has also changed even in the last handful of years and engaged in activity that is deeply inconsistent with not only what I think is best for the world or what America thinks is the best for the world, but inconsistent with what they have promised.

I could tick through a handful of examples.  One country, two systems in Hong Kong – we hope the Chinese will continue to abide by that commitment.  President Xi made a commitment that he wouldn’t put weapons systems in the South China Sea.  He has done so.

So in the first instance, we need the Chinese Communist Party to behave in a way that is consistent with the commitments that they have made, and then we need to make sure that everyone understands the challenges that China presents.  If we are going to all go out and compete in an open, fair, transparent way, American companies will win a lot, French companies will win, Chinese companies win.  That all seems very reasonable and fair, a rules-based commercial trading system, but that’s not what’s been going on for the last decades.

It has been a – they have been a country that’s stolen our stuff, taken intellectual property, forced companies that invested in China to transfer technology.  They are making loans – I use that word loosely – to countries around the world that are unrepayable and then threatening foreclosure for political gain.  They use their state-owned enterprises in ways that deeply subsidize their businesses that are inconsistent with the way both any other country behaves and the way the World Trade Organization permits.

I could go on, and for an awful long time – and I am happy to take some responsibility for this too – America has not done enough, and President Trump has now said we’re going to do this.  We’re going to be candid and honest and transparent, we’re going to work with China where we can, but we’re going to make sure that America addresses each of those challenges in a way that is appropriate.  We could go on for a long time about the efforts that we have underway to do that.

AMBASSADOR TICHENOR:  Yes.  This comes from an Anthony Saliba:  “If the Chinese Government were to use military force to subdue Hong Kong democracy protestors, would the United States Government take steps to directly intervene?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, you never want to – that’s a great question because I don’t have to answer it.  (Laughter.)  Anytime a question starts with “if,” you can feel the free pass coming.  (Laughter.)

It’s the case that not only the United States but the United Kingdom and now several dozen countries in the world have all made clear our expectation of how China will behave with respect to the people of Hong Kong.  That expectation is based on the commitments that the Chinese Government made, the – and so we have said repeatedly to General Secretary Xi, “Honor that commitment.  You promised there would be one country, two systems.”  We’ve encouraged not only Beijing but the protestors to engage in this political discourse for what the people of Hong Kong want in a way that is nonviolent, that can with some hope be resolved in a way that is peaceful with few injuries and less violence.  That is our expectation and we’ve made that clear to everyone operating in that space.

As for what would happen, it’s – I just never foreclose any possibility for how President Trump might think about how we should appropriately respond.  Look, if you read the documentation, right, it’s very clear that this is – again, to the first question about – or the second question about Crimea and the Golan – every – these situations are all highly factually dependent.  You’ve got international law that overlays it.  I’ll just stop there.

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