The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is fast turning out to be China’s biggest nightmare. Wherever the US Secretary of State goes, he makes it a point to reduce China’s growing influence. Having already cut China to size in the Middle East and Europe, Pompeo is now looking to decouple South America from China.
In fact, as Pompeo decided to visit South America, a considerable frustration within the Chinese strategic circles started to show. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tabloid, Global Times stated, “After Europe and Mideast, Pompeo brings anti-China lobby to Latin America.” By the time Pompeo’s South America visit ended on Saturday last week, it became clear that Beijing is actually going to get kicked out of Latin America.
The US strategy to delink China from Latin America was similar to the one that the US also pursued in the Middle East. In the Middle East, the US started marginalising the Chinese ally, Iran and Pompeo started asking US allies like Israel to choose between Washington and Beijing. The Abraham Accord between the US and Israel, followed by another peace agreement between Bahrain and Israel made it clear that the Arab world and Israel have chosen the US over China.
Pompeo designed his South America visit on similar lines. He visited four Latin American countries, three of which share a border with Venezuela that can be described as China’s last bastion in this part of the world.
Therefore, when in Brazil, Pompeo made it a point to praise the country for hosting Venezuelan refugees. Pompeo also visited a Venezuelan refugee camp in Brazil and demanded the resignation of Venezuela’s pro-China President Nicolas Maduro.
Similarly, after a meeting with the Colombian President Iván Duque, the US Secretary of State praised Colombia for taking a clear and tough stand against Nicolás Maduro. Pompeo also came up with an intriguing announcement- $348 million in aid for Venezuelans, a move that could further rile up the popular sentiment against the incumbent regime in the poverty-stricken country.
While Venezuela remained the primary target of Pompeo’s South America visit, he also didn’t shy away from taking on China directly. In a joint appearance with the Suriname President Chan Santokhi, for example, Pompeo said that Chinese companies often do not compete on a “fair and equitable basis.”
The US Secretary of State also said, “No state-owned operation can beat the quality of the products and services of American private companies,” in a jibe directed at the Chinese business model.
He added, “We’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party invest in countries, and it all seems great at the front end and then it all comes falling down when the political costs connected to that becomes clear.” In fact, even in Guyana, Pompeo delivered a similar message.
Within Brazil, Pompeo emphasised the importance of “keeping Brazil’s future networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party”. He also said that US and Brazil would work closely on “increased trade and digital security”, without naming Huawei. But the message is clear- Brazil must choose between the US and China. And Brazil is going to choose the US in all probability.
China is perturbed by Pompeo’s South America visit because the paper dragon has witnessed its own Foreign Minister Wang Yi getting snubbed embarrassingly when he visited Europe immediately after Pompeo’s visit to the Continent. Pompeo’s crusade to unilaterally kick China away from US allies is showing consequences and it seems that South America is the latest venue where the US Secretary of State would give Beijing a bloody nose.