At home, Attorney General William Barr has tailored the anti-China message for American tech firms. Last week, he gave a blistering speech accusing companies
like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple of being too cozy with Chinese government leaders and warning of penalties for executives for advocate for Beijings interests. On Tuesday, the Justice Department charged two Chinese men with hacking scores of U.S. companies, including several researching the coronavirus.
Later this week, Pompeo will give his own high-profile speech, delivering remarks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Richard Nixons historic trip to China, which paved the way for normalized relations between the two countries. But the theme will not be reconciliation. It will focus on Communist China and the future of the free world, according to the State Department.
A senior administration official called the speeches unprecedented, adding that they are a call to action for business leaders, allies and partners.
The campaign comes at a time when Trump is trying to shore up support amid sagging poll numbers over his handling of the coronavirus only 38 percent approved in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll
. More broadly, five consecutive high-quality national polls have shown
Biden ahead of Trump by 10 percentage points or more.
Going after China plays well among key groups of Trump backers. For instance, evangelical leaders who helped carry Trump into the White House in 2016 have been clamoring
for months for Trump to punish Beijing over its handling of the coronavirus. Barrs speech, in particular, got positive reviews from Lou Dobbs, one of Trumps favored cable pundits. But Dobbs warned that the administration has to do more than talk.
Its a powerful speech, but now it has to be backed up with action, Dobbs said last Wednesday on his Fox Business show. And therein lies the dilemma. So much rhetoric, so many speeches, so many promises from the Department of Justice, from the Department of Homeland Security and, indeed, from our Department of Defense. I get the feeling sometimes theyre inert organizations that have no plan whatsoever to actually move to action.
The administration vows more action is coming.
Several senior officials have hinted
that there could be a forthcoming ban on social media app TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also floated
possible action against WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging app.
The New York Times separately reported
that the administration has drafted an order to ban members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families from traveling to the U.S. a potential dramatic move that some experts estimate could bar roughly 10 percent of the Chinese population from American soil.
Politics sets the stage for people who want to really take a harder line on policy, particularly because the president isnt looking for any deals with Xi Jinping right now and he is extremely angry about Covid-19, said Dan Blumenthal, the director of Asian studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank.
A lot of policies China hawks have been advocating for a while are now finally being enacted, Blumenthal added, from the administration going after Huawei to frustration with certain U.S. companies in terms of perceived coziness, and the position on the South China Seas is a long time coming.