- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday the U.S. does not want to “contain” China but it won’t tolerate its abuses, either, as the Trump administration confronts Beijing over unfair trade practices and reaches for a more balanced relationship.

Mr. Pence rattled off a list of ills emanating from China. He said it is stealing intellectual property, deploying mass surveillance, violating the rights of minority Uighurs, interfering in the South China Sea and allowing deadly fentanyl to flow to the U.S.

He said past administrations allowed these problems to fester.

“The political establishment was not only silent in the face of China’s economic aggression and human rights abuses, but enabled them,” he said. “As each year passed  — as each factory closed in the heartland, and each new skyscraper went up in Beijing  — American workers grew only more disheartened, and China grew only more emboldened.”

He said Mr. Trump is tilting the balance back, boosting America’s fortunes while “China’s economy continues to fall behind.”

But Mr. Pence said the U.S. is not trying to “decouple” from China or dance on Beijing’s misfortune.

He said Mr. Trump is heartened by China’s agreement to purchase more U.S. farm products as part of an emerging, “phase-one” agreement that could pave the way to a broader trade pact. As it stands, both sides are negotiating a way out of a trade war that’s resulted in tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars in goods.

“President Trump still believes Beijing wants to make a deal,” Mr. Pence said.
The vice president said the administration is talking tough because it wants better for China.

“That’s why, for the first time in decades, under President Donald Trump, the United States is treating China’s leaders exactly how the leaders of any great world power should be treated: with respect, yes, but also with consistency and candor,” he said.

Mr. Pence aimed that candor at China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, going much further than Mr. Trump has been willing to go in his rhetoric.

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been demonstrating against Beijing for months. The protests were sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill, though their demands reach deeper.

“Hong Kong is a living example of what can happen when China embraces liberty,” Mr. Pence said at the Wilson International Center for Scholars. “And yet, for the last few years, Beijing has increased its interventions in Hong Kong and engaged in actions that curtail the rights and liberties that Hong Kong’s people were guaranteed through a binding international agreement.”

Mr. Pence also said American entities of getting their priorities wrong. He accused a major sportswear company of “checking its social conscience at the door” and took the National Basketball Association to task for its reluctance to take on China over Hong Kong abuses.

“Nike stores in China actually removed their Houston Rockets merchandise from their shelves to join the Chinese government in protest against the Rockets general manager’s seven-word tweet: ‘Fight for Freedom, stand with Hong Kong,’” Mr. Pence said.

“And some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples,” he said. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”

Mr. Trump has called for a “humane” solution to the Hong Kong situation and mixed support for the semi-autonomous island with praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping. He says the Communist leader is a capable man who could sort out the situation by meeting with protest leaders.

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