US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has characterized the alleged challenge to the West posed by China as the 'central threat of our times', adding that the agenda of that country's ruling Communist Party was 'not consistent' with US values.
Speaking at a conference in London on Thursday alongside UK Foreign Affairs Secretary Dominic Raab, Pompeo warned that while China presented enormous economic opportunities for Western business, its rulers under President Xi Jinping have "made it clear" that "they have an agenda that is not always consistent" with Western values on issues from the World Trade Organisation to infrastructure and technology to military capabilities.
"While we still have to be enormously vigilant about terror...the Chinese Communist Party presents the central threat of our times," Pompeo said. According to the top US diplomat, Western countries must do everything necessary to "ensure the next century is governed by...Western democratic principles," so that "all of those who love freedom and cherish democracy and the rule of law" can "ensure that that remains the predominant model for the world for the next century".
Commenting on the ongoing US pressure against its European allies regarding Chinese technology giant Huawei's plans to roll out 5G infrastructure, Pompeo suggested that for the UK, the company poses a threat to national security. "This is not about a technical back door. They have the front door," he said. "When you allow the information of your citizens or the national security information of your citizens to transit a network that the Chinese Communist Party has a legal mandate to obtain, it creates risk," he added.
Expressing deep "confidence" in the "historic" US-UK relationship, Pompeo also took aim at other US adversaries, including Iran and Russia, slamming what he called Moscow's "aggression undertaken over the last handful of years" against Ukraine, and praising US moves to freeze Iranian assets and deny the country sources of income as a way to reduce the country's ability to cause harm to Western interests.
On Tuesday, despite US pressure, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be granting Huawei a limited role in the roll-out of its national 5G networks. London announced the decision following a meeting of the National Security Council, where cybersecurity experts assured the prime minister that Huawei did not pose a big a threat, as Washington has claimed.
In addition to the UK, the UK has pressured other senior European allies to stop working with the Chinese company. However, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and others have indicated that they would continue working with Huawei on their 5G infrastructure.
Washington blacklisted Huawei, ZTE and dozens of other Chinese technology multinationals last May, citing threats to national security, but the Treasury Department has since repeatedly been granted licences to continue doing business with China amid fears by US technology giants like Intel and Microsoft that they could lose tens of billions of dollars in business if ties were cut off.