Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Welcome back to the Ben Shapiro Show. I’m Michael Knowles filling in. I’m host of the Michael Knowles Show podcast, which you can get on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, all over the place. You can find me on Twitter, @MichaelJKnowles. Obviously we’ve been focused on a lot of domestic issues over the past few days and weeks and months. We seem to be very focused on what’s going on in the United States. That is the time, of course, that our adversaries around the world are ready to pounce. Fortunately, we’re very honored to be joined now by someone who can help clear up what’s going on around the world, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for coming on.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You bet, Michael. It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: So, Secretary Pompeo, we have been kind of inwardly focused, I think, over the last few months. And yet, as this Chinese coronavirus has caused us all to look inward, China itself is aggressing around the world. They more or less invaded part of India just a little while ago, killed Indian soldiers; in the South China Sea there have been threats to the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, flying over Taiwan, threatening of Japan. It seems that China is getting aggressive. What does it mean for the ensuing months and years and what is the United States’ response to it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Michael, you recounted some of the – just the most recent actions taken by the Chinese Communist Party. I may have missed it, but you left off attacking the freedom of the people of Hong Kong and —
QUESTION: Of course.
SECRETARY POMPEO: — conducting a campaign of human rights violations in the western part of China to ethnic Uyghurs, Muslims, Turkic Muslims that rivals the greatest human rights violations in all of recorded history. So the list, to your point, is right, it’s wrong. From America’s national security perspective, the threat the President identified when he campaigned back in 2015 from the Chinese Communist Party is very real. And so we’ve begun to take all the right actions to rebalance this relationship in a way that protects and secures freedom for the American people. You see – saw it first from the administration on trade. We had a deeply nonreciprocal set of trade relationships where the Chinese Communist Party stole intellectual property and then turned around and sold it back to us, dumped it with state-sponsored enterprises, conducted cyber-theft at levels that no other country can match the scale of today, enormous set of things that destroyed jobs all across the United States because that intellectual property is the grist for a lot of good jobs for American working people.
President Trump has taken this on seriously. I could spend a lot of time talking about the things that we have done and intend to do, but the mission set – the mission set is to ensure that the next century remains a Western, democratic, freedom-loving century like this last one, and not one dominated by a model that General Secretary Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, wants it to be.
QUESTION: Well, this has been, I think, one of the brilliant legacies thus far – I hope it will be the legacy – of the Trump administration and of your work, to see clearly the threat posed by China even when for decades and decades now politicians of both parties have cheered on the rise of China and have, I think, ignored a lot of the threats there. I know before the coronavirus took over the whole country and all of our thoughts, the administration was touting this new trade deal with China. We were all very excited about it. Then the whole world changed. What will the effect of the virus and the lockdown be as we look to the future of that trade deal?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, Michael, it’s certainly the case this virus that emanated from Wuhan, China, killed hundreds of thousands of people across the world and has destroyed trillions of dollars in wealth – and as the President said, the scale of the destruction that came as a result of the Chinese Communist Party hiding and covering up for this and allowing people to exit China when they knew that that had an enormous risk that it would infect people around the world, and they should have made a different set of decisions – it makes the trade deal look – I think the President’s words were – it seems much less of a priority for me today.
Notwithstanding that, we hope that the first part of the Phase One trade deal is complied with. We hope there are places that we can work with China. We want good things for the Chinese people. What we’re never going to sacrifice is American national security and American economic prosperity. And so I hope that the Chinese will decide that their commitments under the Phase One trade deal must be complied with. We – they tell us that they will. We’ll wait and see if they come through with their obligations there.
QUESTION: And I’d say it reminds me of an old line from Ronald Reagan that he would quote to Mikhail Gorbachev: Doveryai, no proveryai – trust, but verify. And I – certainly it would seem apt for the relationship with China. Who do you —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Michael. In my speech last week, Michael, I used that phrase and then described how we should respond to the Chinese Communist Party as distrust, but verify.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) That’s right. You’ve got to set these standards.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, they’ve just – they’ve broken – they’ve broken so many – Michael, they’ve broken so many promises to the world. They promised they wouldn’t arm the South China Sea. They promised the people of Hong Kong they’d have their freedom for 50 years. The list – they promised the World Health Organization that they would fess up if they had a problem. This is what happens in authoritarian regimes.
QUESTION: And you’re seeing the effect of that too. I mean, I remember early on in the pandemic there was a study that came out of University of Southampton that said if China had just stopped lying about the virus one week earlier, it would have reduced transmission possibly by 66 percent; two weeks earlier, 86 percent; three weeks earlier, over 90 percent. And I think a lot of people are hoping that there will be some consequence to be paid or at least a more just view of our relationship moving into the future.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I think that’s certainly the case. I think the whole world saw what – Michael, what you and I know: communist regimes have a propensity to have the inability to tell the truth at the most critical moments. So even today they are denying access to places that need access so that we can figure out who patient zero was, how this virus moved around the world. We’ve still got people with this virus, and the Chinese Communist – to this day, now call it six and a half months on from when the Chinese Communist Party knew that human-to-human transmission was possible, it’s still the case that they won’t allow a simple inquiry into what happened, how it happened, and most importantly, to allow us to make sure we can get comfort that this won’t happen again. This is not the first virus that has come from China.
QUESTION: Yeah. Mr. Secretary, I know that over the past four years now we’ve heard lots of fear mongering about World War III, and it seems that anything that the United States does in the realm of foreign policy is going to cause World War III according to the mainstream media and Democrats, and that has not come to pass. Yet there does seem to be a real fear here as China is aggressing, particularly against another nuclear power, India, and as this lockdown throws the whole world into chaos. What is the threat level that we could find ourselves in some sort of armed conflict?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Michael, this is certainly serious business. To your point, this risk increased because for decades – and this is not political – both parties, presidents of both parties, just refused to be straight with China. And this threat level that we find ourselves under, the risk created to American national security stems from that weakness, from that consistent kowtowing, bending the knee over and over to China, giving them the belief that they could – what’s the Southwest Airlines – they could move about the cabin freely and there wouldn’t be a response from the West, from freedom-loving peoples and from the United States. And the President has just simply said enough. We’re going to find places we can work together. We’re going to distrust but verify. And when we do that, and when we do that well, we’ll rebalance this relationship, and – we hope – convince the Chinese Communist Party to behave in a way that’s fundamentally different than the things they have done that have taken advantage of America for far too long.
QUESTION: That’s right. And as we head into this election season, we hope that China and other adversaries around the world don’t take advantage of that as well. We hear a whole lot about election interference, so we will continue to hope and, of course, cheer on all the excellent work that you have been doing.
Mr. Secretary, we have taken up enough of your time. I know that you’re a very busy man, so thank you so much for taking the time to come on. We will trust you and we will distrust and verify when it comes to China.
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) Michael, thank you very much for your time today. So long. Have a wonderful weekend.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.