China’s Communist Party is engaged in aggressive influence and intelligence operations inside the United States, targeting federal, state and local governments, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Mr. Pompeo said that during his 1,000 days as secretary of state under former President Trump, he declassified an intelligence report that revealed how Beijing was targeting state governors in a bid to influence their policies in favor of China.
The former secretary of state, who appears readying a run for president in 2024, outlined what he called the successes of the major shift in U.S. policies toward China during the Trump administration, reversing decades of conciliatory polices of successive Republican and Democratic administrations.
The threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party, which Mr. Pompeo said does not represent the more than 1 billion Chinese people, is not a long way off.
“When I say it’s not a long way off, it means it’s here inside the United States of America today,” he said in a speech Saturday night to an audience of mostly Chinese-Americans in Livermore, California, near San Francisco.
Mr. Pompeo recalled how he warned a group of some 40 U.S. governors in February 2020 that China was targeting state and local governments for both influence and money.
The secretary said the governors at the meeting were focused more on state issues and less interested in foreign policy until informed that “the Chinese Communist Party wants you.”
“I managed to get declassified a report which spoke to the Chinese Communist Party’s effort to influence governors across the United States of America,” Mr. Pompeo said.
“These were deep influence operations. The document that got unclassified had a range on a table that demarcated for every governor whether they were a friend of China, a foe of China or if they were being worked on,” he said.
The operation highlighted the extensive influence campaign underway in the United States by the CCP at various levels of both government and society.
“The Chinese Communist Party is operating right were we sit tonight,” Mr. Pompeo said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re sitting right outside of this restaurant. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were in country commission meetings in every county in California. It would not surprise me at all if they were walking the halls of every state legislature all across America.”
Another example of nefarious Chinese activity was “the massive spy ring operating in the United States” by Chinese spy services working from the Chinese consulate in Houston, Mr. Pompeo said.
The consulate was closed in July 2020 in response to spying that officials said was focused in large part on stealing medical and other valuable intellectual property.
“This had been known for a long time, but no administration was prepared to take action to actually shut down what the Chinese Communist Party was doing inside our country,” Mr. Pompeo said.
The former secretary of state also warned that the Chinese are funding the large-scale military buildup of both conventional and nuclear arms by luring state pension funds to invest in China.
The governors were told that “you should know that your pension funds are investing in weapons of war that may wind up one-day killing American citizens,” Mr. Pompeo said.
“You should think long and hard about investing inside of China where the Communist Party is using the proceeds of hard-earned dollars made by Americans who invested in their retirement to build up the Chinese military apparatus,” he said.
China’s communist government and military has been embarked for decades on a buildup of missiles, warplanes, warships and submarines that appears far beyond what is required for national defense.
In recent weeks, satellite photographs have revealed what U.S. officials say is three large missile fields in western China that intelligence agencies believe will be used for an estimated 350 new DF-41 missiles, each with up to 10 warheads.
As part of the CCP’s influence operations, Chinese agents and supporters are “intent on winning the information battle here at home,” Mr. Pompeo said.
“We need to bring all of America’s tools to bear to prevent that from taking place,” he said.
Under Mr. Pompeo, the State Department adopted a short-hand phrase for its new policy toward China dubbed “distrust but verify,” a play on the 1980s arms control policy toward the Soviet Union utilized by then-President Reagan, called “trust but verify”
“Important in that statement is that we came to know that there wasn’t a single thing uttered by a Chinese communist official that has any possibility of actually being true,” Mr. Pompeo said.
“We knew that they were liars. We knew that they had lied to the people of Hong Kong. We knew that they were continuing to lie to the United States about the virus which came from inside their country. And they continue to lie to this day.”
Mr. Pompeo said the deaths of 4 million people during the pandemic were the result of a leak or accident “almost certainly” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Work at the Chinese virology institute involved making viruses more lethal and more contagious, he said.
Chinese leaders knew the virus was both highly lethal and very contagious and accordingly shut down the province of Wuhan. But they permitted thousands of Chinese to travel from the province around the world, triggering the pandemic.
“The world must understand that they didn’t value human life,” Mr. Pompeo said of the Chinese leadership, adding that the leaders “ultimately must be called to atone.”
China has denied the virus originated in one of its virus-research laboratories and instead blames the United States for causing the outbreak.
“We have a responsibility to recognize that the stories that the Chinese Communist Party continues to tell around the world remain lies,” Mr. Pompeo said.
On China’s squelching of democracy in Hong Kong, Mr. Pompeo said he fears the former British colony is “lost” until the CCP is defeated.
Americans, he said, now have a “clarion call and moral duty” to prevent Taiwan from suffering the same fate.
China has been stepping up military provocations against Taiwan and Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed China will retake the island that broke from the mainland in 1949 in the wake of the Communists’ civil-war victory.
“We cannot permit Taiwan to go the way of what Hong Kongers are suffering,” Mr. Pompeo said.
Mr. Pompeo said U.S. policy toward China’s ruling party has been “backward” since at least 1972, when the Nixon administration began opening relations with Beijing, as a Cold War counterweight to the Soviet Union
“We had it wrong. We’ve had it wrong since 1972. We’ve certainly had it wrong since at least the last 20 years,” he said.
During the Trump years “for the first time in an awfully long time, the United States redirected our energy and made clear that the Chinese Communist Party would not last forever,” Mr. Pompeo said.
The basis for the Trump policy was recognizing that China is ruled by Marxist-Leninist leaders intent not only on holding onto power over the Chinese people but ultimately “dominating the region and the world.”
The ideological battle against Chinese communism will be a difficult fight but one that is worth fighting, he said.
“Those who say we just need to be nice to the Chinese Communist Party don’t understand that negotiating with people like this is not possible,” Mr. Pompeo said.
Communists “do not understand life the way each of us understands life. They do not understand power the way each of us understands it.”
Mr. Xi, the Chinese supreme leader, is advocating for a Chinese “kingdom” and a “Chinese dream,” he said.
That CCP vision is totally opposite to the American dream of freedom and democracy, Mr. Pompeo said.