Chinese President Xi Jinping is the world’s “most dangerous” leader and ultimately wants to rule the world, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo writes in a memoir detailing his four years as a top intelligence and diplomatic voice in the Trump administration.
In his book and in remarks to The Washington Times, Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman and a potential candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, reveals details of his talks with Mr. Xi and other world leaders while CIA director and secretary of state under President Trump.
One revealing exchange involved a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who told Mr. Pompeo that Chinese leaders’ assertions that he favors the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea were “lies.” Mr. Kim instead said American military power in South Korea was also protecting his own regime in Pyongyang from being dominated by Beijing.
Mr. Pompeo recounts how he met with Mr. Xi in the Chinese capital in June 2018 after the summit in Singapore between President Trump and Mr. Kim to update the Chinese leader on the talks.
During the meeting, Mr. Pompeo explained that Mr. Trump’s “America First” foreign policy could be beneficial to China if the ruling Chinese Communist Party would change direction. Mr. Xi, whom Mr. Pompeo calls the “most dangerous leader in the world,” did not agree.
“It was a tough assignment,” Mr. Pompeo, a West Point graduate and Christian conservative, writes in “Never Give an Inch,” his just-released 413-page memoir.
Mr. Pompeo told The Washington Times that many of the tougher policies he and Mr. Trump adopted toward Beijing have been reversed since they left office in 2021.
“Many of the efforts to confront China at home —‘inside the gates’ — have been halted by President Biden,” he said. “The Justice Department dropped prosecutions; at [the Department of Homeland Security], ‘open borders’ policy allowed Chinese espionage and fentanyl into our country; at our schools, more not less CCP influence; and, of course, a refusal to confront the deaths from the Chinese [coronavirus] lab leak,” he said.
The Chinese leader, a fervent Marxist-Leninist, came to power in 2012. Mr. Pompeo said everything the Chinese government does is inspired by communist ideology.
He said China’s military is preparing for an invasion of Taiwan and has built up its power in all warfare domains: space, cyberspace, conventional, nuclear and maritime. Beijing also is using the Belt and Road Initiative to expand its power globally, Mr. Pompeo said.
Despite its growing military power, Mr. Pompeo said, Beijing, like other totalitarian regimes, fears its own people. He noted that the budget for domestic security and control is larger than the funding for the People’s Liberation Army.
In their meeting, Mr. Pompeo said, he felt the Chinese leader showed himself to be a dour communist with “dead eyes,” one who never smiled during their conversation.
“He fit the psychological profile of an East German or Soviet communist I came to study during my Army days. Xi talked in hollow tones, always in search of words, phrases and archaic Chinese proverbs of questionable clarity.”
During the meeting, Mr. Xi went on a diatribe against U.S. support for Taiwan, tariffs imposed by Mr. Trump on Chinese goods and China’s claim to own 90% of the South China Sea, he said.
“Then, in response to his lies, I spoke the truth: the CCP could never match American greatness,” he said.
Mr. Pompeo said he told the Chinese leader that superpower status requires building friendships and not coercing neighbors, rewarding excellence and not creating cronies through bribes.
“This was the high point of my relationship with General Secretary Xi. Softly and kindly, I had told him the hard truth,” he wrote.
Mr. Pompeo contends that five decades of pro-trade policies and economic engagement with China failed to produce a benign system. After an early effort at engagement and the negotiating of a trade deal, the Trump administration took a new direction, outlined in a national security strategy blueprint, that treated Beijing as an adversary.
“It was a great and hopeful theory. But it didn’t work,” Mr. Pompeo said of past engagement policies. He said China has been engaged in an “economic war” against the United States for decades.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Pompeo said, Mr. Xi called Mr. Trump to try to have the secretary of state fired. He said Mr. Pompeo had defamed the Chinese people and was antagonistic toward Beijing.
Mr. Xi then said Mr. Pompeo threatened the trade deal signed by Mr. Trump in January 2020, in which Beijing pledged to buy some $200 billion in U.S. goods and services over two years in exchange for tariff relief.
The president later told him “that f——— guy hates you,” but nonetheless kept him on.
At one point, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pompeo to back off critical public comments about China, what he called “a temporary rhetorical cease-fire.”
The tougher China policy emanating from the State Department and other agencies was the work of a handful of advisers who went against entrenched government bureaucrats, think tank academics and financial industry executives who wanted to keep the more pro-China policies and protect the bilateral trade relationship.
Mr. Pompeo identified Miles Yu, his chief adviser on China within the State Department policy planning staff, as a valuable resource in dealing with the Chinese. Mr. Yu was born in China and was on loan from the U.S. Naval Academy.
The new State Department policies sought to limit U.S. technology transfers to China, provide greater support for Taiwan and develop reciprocity in bilateral relations.
Mr. Pompeo said one of the most significant shifts was in 2019, during a speech in which he publicly declared that the 94 million-member CCP that rules China with an iron fist “is not the same as the people of China.”
“As it turned out, this became the single most hated and feared sentence uttered by any U.S. secretary of state concerning China in decades, producing overwhelming vitriol from the CCP’s propaganda organs,” Mr. Pompeo wrote. “The exposure of this simple, basic truth that the party and the people are not the same thing is the CCP’s biggest nightmare, because it plants a seed to challenge the regime in the mind of the Chinese people.”
On Taiwan, Mr. Pompeo said he succeeded in upgrading U.S. policy toward the island, which he described as a “redoubt of independence on the doorstep of an imperialist bully.” Mr. Xi has vowed to reclaim control of Taiwan one day, by force if necessary. Mr. Pompeo and other critics say Taiwan’s democratic government is a standing rebuke to China’s Marxist-Leninist system.
The State Department was directed under Mr. Pompeo to seek deeper engagement with the people and government of Taiwan, including visits to the island by senior officials. Guidelines restricting Taiwanese and U.S. exchanges were also scrapped.
“I wanted to send a message about the danger of letting bureaucratic inertia sustain meaningless policies. It was also time to right a historic wrong,” Mr. Pompeo wrote.
Mr. Pompeo said the State Department worked with the Pentagon to increase naval and overflight missions near Taiwan, along with increasing military sales.
“The democratic world tried to treat China with welcoming acceptance. China reciprocated with nothing but aggression, chauvinism and disrespect,” Mr. Pompeo said.
A key goal of the new policy, he said, was “telling hard truths about the CCP and take the right actions to stop it.”
Mr. Pompeo said that one of his most successful efforts was a three-year battle inside the Trump administration to shut down the Chinese Consulate in Houston, which he said Beijing was using as a base to spy on local medical centers and other facilities.
U.S. intelligence agencies opposed the closure over fears of retaliation against the agency’s own operations in China.
Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States at the time, expressed less concern about the consulate closure when informed of the action by Mr. Pompeo. Instead, Mr. Cui urged Mr. Pompeo to stop distinguishing the Communist Party from the Chinese people — an indication of how sensitive the issue was to Beijing.
On the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Pompeo writes in “Never Give an Inch” that he is convinced the virus did not transfer naturally from an animal host but was cultivated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and escaped through some type of laboratory leak.
“I do not believe the CCP intentionally unleashed COVID-19 on the world as a bioweapon, though I could be wrong,” he said.
In addition to explaining policy changes in confronting China, Mr. Pompeo recounts in the book how he dealt with Mr. Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said could be “mirthful” in discussions.
The book also provides details on events leading up to the U.S. drone missile strike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport in January 2020. As a result of that attack, Mr. Pompeo continues to receive protection from U.S. security agents over fears of an Iranian retaliatory attack.
Sparring with Kim
Mr. Pompeo described his first meeting with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang in 2018. Still director of the CIA at the time, he recalled being greeted by the dictator with a joke.
“Mr. Director, I didn’t think you’d show up. I know you’ve been trying to kill me,” Mr. Kim told him.
Mr. Pompeo said his CIA team had not prepared him for a greeting joke about assassination, but as the CIA chief, “maybe his bon mot made sense.”
“I decided to lean in with a little humor of my own: ‘Mr. Chairman, I’m still trying to kill you,’” Mr. Pompeo replied.
In a later meeting, Mr. Pompeo said he told the North Korean leader that Chinese officials consistently relayed to their U.S. counterparts that the departure of American forces from South Korea would make Mr. Kim happy.
“At this, Kim laughed and pounded on the table in sheer joy, exclaiming that the Chinese were liars,” Mr. Pompeo wrote. Mr. Kim “said that he needed the Americans in South Korea to protect him from the CCP, and that the CCP needs the Americans out so they can treat the peninsula like Tibet and Xinjiang.”
Mr. Pompeo said the comment is a lesson for current U.S. policymakers: that an expansion of U.S. missile and ground forces in South Korea “won’t bother the North Koreans at all.”
The book also recounts political battles with some Trump administration officials, including National Security Adviser John R. Bolton and Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations.
Mr. Pompeo said Mr. Bolton tried to scuttle the 2018 summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim in Singapore by asserting in a cable television interview that the United States favored the “Libyan model” as a solution to the North Korean nuclear threat.
The reference to Libya, where a U.S.-backed uprising led to the death of strongman Moammar Gadhafi after he agreed to surrender his nuclear program, was meant to dissuade Mr. Kim from going forward with the summit, Mr. Pompeo said.
Mr. Pompeo also criticized Mrs. Haley, who recently entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination, for quitting her post after two years in New York. As ambassador, she helped with placing sanctions on North Korea but “didn’t do much else” in the job, he wrote.
Even the power of the press failed to intimidate him, the author says. Mr. Pompeo recalled how he was once pressured by New York Times correspondent David Sanger at the State Department who wanted regular several hourlong meetings for information each month.
“I don’t have that much time for even some of my most senior team members,” Mr. Pompeo told him.
Mr. Sanger said he had “sources all over this building.” Mr. Pompeo regarded the comment as a threat.
“Not that it fazed me, as I’ve been threatened — and indeed still am threatened — by people who can do me far more serious harm than some jackass at The New York Times,” Mr. Pompeo said.