AFP File photo
WASHINGTON: “Distrust and Verify” will be the new American approach towards Beijing, the United States said on Thursday, declaring that the age of “appeasing China” is over, while laying out serious charges of theft and spying against the country’s communist regime and its military.
In further deterioration on the ground of ties between the two countries following the Trump administration’s orders on Wednesday to shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston on charges of spying, Washington also accused the Chinese consulate in San Francisco of harboring a potential fugitive– a Chinese military personnel masquerading as a researcher, a tactic US officials say is part of Beijing’s covert operations to steal US intellectual property.
In court filings, the FBI and the Department of Justice alleged that Tang Juan was issued a non-immigrant F1 student visa last fall to conduct research at the University of California, Davis, but after FBI agents found photos of her in military uniform on the internet, they interviewed her on June 20 about her visa application.
“The FBI assesses that, at some point following the search and interview of Tang on June 20, 2020, Tang went to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, where the FBI assesses she has remained,” US attorneys wrote in a July 20 court filing that brought federal charges against Tang for visa fraud.
The stand-off over the “researcher” holed up in the SFO consulate follows a fundamental shift in US policy towards China that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to elaborate on Thursday evening – significantly at the Nixon Library in California, named after the President whose China outreach nearly 50 years ago began four decades of prolific engagement with the communist dictatorship.
President Trump and some of his senior aides now believe that China used the time – and American goodwill and benevolence through both Republican and Democratic administrations – to “rip off” the US in an effort to overtake it in the global power sweepstakes. At a White House briefing, Trump did not rule out shutting down more Chinese consulates.
The US bearing down on Chinese researchers and consulates comes amid charges that hackers working with the Chinese government have targeted firms developing vaccines for the coronavirus and have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars worth of intellectual property and trade secrets from companies across the world.
“There’s been this long challenge of the Chinese Communist Party stealing intellectual property. President Trump has said enough. We’re not gonna allow this to continue to happen. We’re setting up clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave. And when they don’t, we’re going to take actions that protect the American people,” Pompeo said on Wednesday as he canvassed support in Europe for the tough new US approach.
In Washington, US officials said the FBI and DOJ had uncovered that Houston was the “epicenter of research theft”
by the Chinese Communist Party, identifying China’s “thousand talents program” as one “specifically designed to recruit Chinese citizens to come to the United States to steal from our research institutions such as MD Anderson, and energy technology and technology companies in the Houston area.” They disclosed that US agencies had uncovered at least a billion dollars of research theft on just one case alone.
“Over the past 40 to 50 years, we had tried through Republican and Democratic administrations opening up to China. We tried appeasement. We’ve tried doing more business and getting both countries to come together bringing them into international organizations,” State Deparment spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a TV interview, previewing what she said would be a “historic speech” by Pompeo in which he’s going to “lay out exactly how our opening to China has failed and how we are now embarking on a new policy which is distrust and verify.”
The US outreach to China began in 1970 through Pakistan and with what was called “ping-pong diplomacy” (involving a US table tennis team visiting China). This paved the way for Republican President Nixon’s eight-day visit to China in 1972, culminating seven years later in full diplomatic recognition of China by Democratic President Jimmy Carter and business ties that has resulted in the world’s largest trade relationship of $ 636 billion — skewed heavily in favor of China.