What to Make of Pompeo’s Parting Moves Regarding China

During times like these it may be difficult to think about foreign affairs. But America’s rivals and enemies certainly won’t pause their agendas simply because we are embroiled in domestic political discord. The Trump administration didn’t stop making foreign policy moves in its final days either, even after the president and his supporters incited a riot at the Capitol on January  6. 

The State Department, under Secretary Mike Pompeo, has been especially busy. Pompeo has positioned himself as an unwavering Trump loyalist. He likely hopes to inherit Trump’s political base for the 2024 presidential election, assuming Trump himself doesn’t run again. So, Pompeo’s actions these past few weeks are about both policy and political jockeying.

Some of his big-ticket items have involved China. Pompeo has been among the most vocal champions of the idea that the U.S. has entered a period of “great power competition” (GPC) with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Russia. He isn’t the only official to spearhead the U.S. government’s repositioning. Some within the national security bureaucracy had been pushing this concept even before the Trump administration. But Pompeo has often been out in front as the face of GPC. 

On January 9, Pompeo announced that the State Department was lifting a set of “complex internal restrictions” that were devised to limit “our diplomats, servicemembers, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts.” These self-imposed rules were intended to allay Beijing’s concerns that the U.S. would recognize Taiwan as an independent state. 

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