PRAGUE • China’s global economic power makes the country in some ways a more difficult foe to counter than the Soviet Union during the Cold War, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to the Czech Republic this week.
He called on countries in Europe to rally against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which he said leverages its economic might to exert its influence around the world.
“What is happening now isn’t Cold War 2.0,” he said in a speech to the Czech Senate on Wednesday. “The challenge of resisting the CCP threat is in some ways much more difficult. The CCP is already enmeshed in our economies, in our politics, in our societies, in ways the Soviet Union never was.”
The Cold War reference came after China’s ambassador to London last month warned that the United States was picking a fight with Beijing ahead of the US presidential election in November.
US-China ties have deteriorated quickly this year over a range of issues, including Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus, telecommunications equipment maker Huawei, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea as well as the clampdown in Hong Kong.
Mr Pompeo’s visit to the Czech Republic, a country that was part of the Soviet bloc until the 1989 democratic Velvet Revolution, marked the first stop on a swing through the region to discuss cyber and energy security.
He used the occasion to take a swipe at both Russian and Chinese influence, and lauded officials in the central European nation of 10.7 million who have taken on Beijing over the past year. He also cited the country’s efforts to set secu-rity standards for the development of 5G telecommunications networks after a government watchdog warned about using equipment made by China’s Huawei.
Mr Pompeo and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis signed a declaration on 5G security in May, but the Czech Republic has not made an outright decision to ban Huawei technology. Czech President Milos Zeman has been promoting closer ties with China.
Mr Pompeo also acknowledged the Czech Senate’s chairman Milan Vystrcil, who followed through on a plan by his late predecessor to visit Taiwan at the end of this month, a trip that has angered China.
Mr Pompeo said some countries in Europe would take longer to wake up to the threats, but there was positive momentum.
“The tide has turned (in the US), just as I see it turned here in Europe as well. The West is winning, don’t let anyone tell you about the decline of the West,” he said.
“It will take all of us… here in Prague, in Poland, in Portugal. We have the obligation to speak clearly and plainly to our people, and without fear. We must confront complex questions… and we must do so together.”