J Michael Waller / Center for Security Policy / April 4, 2020 – Tracking official Chinese regime propaganda outlets shows that the Chinese Communist Party can’t stomach an American secretary of state with the guts to call it out.
Regime messaging is dropping hints in English that relations with the US will improve only if American diplomats defy Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pompeo is removed.
With President Trump playing “good cop” with China, Pompeo is very much Trump’s “bad cop.” The CCP – shorthand for Chinese Communist Party – wants him removed and replaced with a more traditionally compliant secretary of state.
At present, CCP outlets are suggesting that American professional diplomats rebel against Pompeo inside the State Department to render him ineffective – an important indicator that Pompeo is managing to roll back the influence of entrenched careerists who have been soft on Mao Tse-tung’s successors.
Pompeo has an effective team with interagency support, so he has to go. Pompeo has a capable interagency team to uproot aggressive Chinese regime influence operations and espionage inside the United States. He warned state governors in February about CCP political influence strategy aimed at compromising state- and local-level officials. He rallied America’s G7 trading partners – all military allies – to start countering CCP disinformation.
The CCP is now recycling accusations from the Washington Post that Pompeo is not only “ineffectual,” but is the worst secretary of state since the 1800s and “one of the worst secretaries of state” in history.
CCP will interfere in 2020 election if Pompeo doesn’t get out. The Chinese Communist Party is also hinting that it will (continue to) interfere in American elections. It is now stating through its English-language mouthpiece Global Times that America will “suffer” and President Trump won’t get re-elected unless Pompeo is removed.
Case study: How CCP twists American messages to knock out our secretary of state. A breakdown of an April 4 Global Times article shows how the CCP pounces on American government statements and hostile media comments and slingshots them into propaganda messages to undermine the US Secretary of State.
It started with an April 3 open letter that US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad published on the American Embassy in Beijing website and on China’s Weibo social media platform. It was what under other circumstances would have been an ordinary, mundane letter of light diplomatic niceties and expressions of cooperation on a common problem during a crisis.
The CCP weaponized Branstad’s letter and distorted it to attack Pompeo and to urge a rebellion within the State Department to force Pompeo’s removal. Any softened tone toward the Chinese regime is welcome – except from Pompeo, who must go, the CCP says. A Global Times article is representative of the theme to support the anybody-but-Pompeo soft line:
- US Ambassador ‘surprisingly’ showed ‘appreciation’ for Chinese efforts. “The US Embassy in China on Friday posted an article on Weibo which surprisingly expressed its ambassador’s appreciation for Chinese efforts to assist the US government in the fight against the coronavirus, marking a sharp change in tone as less than a week ago, the embassy roiled Chinese netizens by using ‘Wuhan virus’ to refer to COVID-19.”
- Accurately quotes US ambassador. “The article, penned by US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad titled ‘Moving Forward Together,’ said, ‘I underscored that now is the time to look forward, and relayed my appreciation for Chinese efforts to assist our government in the export of needed medical supplies to the United States.’”
- A welcome ‘change of tone.’ “US Embassy in China’s change of tone came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump administration’s most vocal China hawk, adopted a more restrained tone and dropped his use of ‘Wuhan virus,’ according to the New York Times.”
- Pompeo ‘interfered with China-US cooperation.’ “Pompeo, however, did not immediately stop stigmatizing China even after Trump dropped the term ‘Chinese virus,’ which made the Chinese people suspect that the US is playing tricks. This seriously interfered with China-US cooperation to fight the disease, analysts said.”
- CCP cites Washington Post to attack Pompeo. “Pompeo was derided by the Washington Post as the most ineffectual secretary of state since 1898.” [Note: It’s hard to sort out which derision is referenced here, though Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl penned a piece accusing Pompeo of being the worst secretary of state since World War II because of his attempt to hold the CCP accountable.]
- Branstad ‘is following Pompeo’s lead’ but Pompeo is still ‘the worst diplomat.’ “This time, the embassy is following Pompeo’s lead, but does not mean Pompeo has changed anything. His assessment as the worst diplomat will not change and Chinese people will continue to watch his actions, analysts noted.”
- ‘US has finally realized’ that it needs PRC to defeat pandemic. Global Times paraphrases a professor who teaches CCP diplomats: “the shift shows that the US has finally realized that only through joint cooperation with China can it defeat the COVID-19 epidemic. . . . the US is in grave need of medical supplies and it knows that the biggest outside help [sic] must come from China. . . .” After this point, the CCP hints at blackmail to harm the United States, and to interfere in the 2020 elections.
- If Pompeo prevails, Americans will ‘suffer’ and Trump won’t get re-elected. For CCP diplomatic rhetoric, the Global Times makes a very blunt statement: “If the US maintains the mentality of geopolitical competition with China instead of seeking help from China, the Americans would suffer ultimately and Trump’s reelection would be seriously affected. . . .”
- CCP finds the new tone pleasing. “. . . the change of tone in the US Embassy’s social media account showed that the relevant parties from both countries are strengthening cooperation in the pandemic prevention and control work and are moving to the right direction after leaders of two countries spoke on the phone.
- . . . But the CCP will never believe Pompeo, ‘one of the worst Secretaries of State.’ “Even if Pompeo restrained his tone, the Chinese people [the CCP’s euphemism for itself] would not buy it. But we will continue to support and provide assistance to the US, Chinese analysts said, urging the ‘one of the worst Secretaries of State’ could be more sober-minded and that the US embassy in Beijing could better perform its role as a bridge to China-US relations.”
- CCP urges ‘US embassy in Beijing’ to break with Pompeo. “The US embassy in Beijing cannot just fawn on Pompeo. it should take its responsibility at this critical moment.”
- Looks like CCP is expecting Pompeo to leave office. “. . . the statement which was released under the name of the ambassador shows his intention, which is to facilitate cooperation between China and the US.”
- If State Department takes a line pleasing to CCP, it will be a ‘very good thing.’ “If the ambassador’s attitude can fully represent the transformation of the US State Department and those politicians who kept stigmatizing China and politicizing the coronavirus, it will surely be a ‘very good thing’ that China and the international community will welcome.”
- Softened US line on pandemic doesn’t mean softened position elsewhere. “However, befriending China on the COVID-19 issue does not mean that the US will start cooperating with China on other issues, such as the South China Sea, Taiwan or trade disputes. . . .”
- ‘Don’t even think that China-US relations will improve after this.’“The US’ hard-line approach toward China and its containment policy on China is nearly impossible to change over a short time, so don’t even think that China-US relations will improve after this,” a CCP analyst.
- CCP unleashed trolls to attack US Embassy posts on Weibo. “Global Times noticed that the comments area under this embassy post in Weibo [CCP-authorized analogue to Twitter] was closed. Last week, the US embassy referred to COVID-19 as the ‘Wuhan virus’ in several of its Weibo posts which outraged many Chinese who called such posts racist provocation and stigma.”
- Parting shot: US Embassy pushes ‘racist provocation and stigma.’“However, the US embassy in Beijing did not respond directly to the questions raised by the Global Times on such posts and wide criticism from the Chinese public. It only said in the reply that diversity and equality are core values that drive American society, the constitution and legal system, and respect for diversity and equality is a choice Americans make every day in order to strengthen their society.”