QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Washington Watch.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Tony, it’s great to be with you. Thank you for having me on today.
QUESTION: Now, you sent a very clear warning to state leaders that they need to be on the lookout for efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate various levels of government.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Tony, I spoke about a series of facts, things that we all know and that, frankly, aren’t quite broadly enough on people’s radar screen, including state and local officials, governors, school principals. These are entities – Chinese Communist Party entities that have what would be seemingly innocent faces on them, the Thousand Talents Program, Confucius Institutes in our institutions of higher learning. On their face, they look like just friendly outreaches from a country that wants a deeper set of relationships, but in fact, these entities are controlled and directed by the Chinese Communist Party.
And what I was attempting to do was talk about how diplomats, Chinese diplomats who are serving here in the United States are leading and executing on those programs in ways that present risk to American businesses, to Americans’ privacy, and to America’s foreign policy and national security. So it’s not a partisan issue. There were 40-plus governors from all across the country, and I wanted them to be on heightened awareness about the risks associated with these various entities.
QUESTION: There’s an effort at the government level where you see, actually, a number of Chinese businesses, sometimes fronts for the party, doing building projects, roads, such here in the United States, but you also pointed out in education. This is happening in classrooms K through 12 as well as college campuses. How’s that happening?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So President Trump’s been very clear. Chinese students coming here to get a good education is something we welcome, and the same – what we need is transparency and reciprocity. We need – it wouldn’t be the case that a Confucius Institute could be set up in a Chinese institution by an American entity controlled by the United States Government, or in our K through 12 education programs; these friendship associations that are put there ostensibly to teach the Mandarin language, but, in fact, have deep connections back to the Chinese Communist Party. That’s not right.
We know the fact that they won’t give us reciprocity is an indicator that these are not purely benevolent institutions, but rather are aimed at some other Chinese Government objective. And I just – we have Chinese citizens all across the world. I ran a small business in China. There are wonderful, great Chinese people. What I’m asking leaders to take note of is the risk that those with whom they deal may have an agenda that is different from the one that they present, and they may, in fact, be connected to the People’s Liberation Army or the Chinese Communist Party itself.
QUESTION: And Mr. Secretary, you’ve made very clear that we don’t want to cut off relations with China; we want to maintain a relationship, but an equitable relationship. And I think an evidence of that desire to be a good neighbor to China is how we’ve responded to the coronavirus.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We are all across the United States Government working diligently to support everyone who is at risk from the spread of the coronavirus. You’ve seen what we’ve done to protect Americans in terms of the State Department getting some 7 or 800-plus people out of Wuhan, out of the central location where this all began. We’ve watched America now come to help China, offering up to $100 million to assist them. We provided medical supplies to them. We’ll continue to provide that support.
We’re also, Secretary Azar, working diligently to provide American technical support, medical, epidemiological experts, so that we can help resist this – what is now a global threat. And America stands ready to continue to support the Chinese Government in this. To your point, this is a place where we have a set of common interest and important objective, and America, at President Trump’s direction, is prepared to do all we can to help keep not only Americans safe, but those all around the world.
QUESTION: But we can differentiate between our humanitarian efforts where we want to help whatever nation might be in trouble and is willing to accept our help, and being naive and allowing a communist regime to infiltrate various levels of government or – quite frankly, I think we have to look at some of our – like the World Bank and some of the funds that we’re sending to the – the low-interest loans that we’re allowing China to have that oftentimes is being used for technology and other purposes that run counter to our focus on international human rights.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Tony, you’ve got it exactly right. Look, this is a broad effort that the President – that President Trump has directed us to undertake. Whether it’s the risk of Chinese technology in our systems, which would give a key way for the Chinese Communist Party to have access to the most intimate information of American citizens – we’ve gone around the world telling other countries they need to be careful about that too, or to your point about how the Chinese are using financial power to leverage into political control and influence in countries around the world, we can see this now. This is bipartisan. America didn’t do enough for the last 10 or 15 years, that – under Republican and Democrat presidents alike.
President Trump has made clear we want fairness, we want transparency, we want a relationship with China that is balanced and equal, and on a commercial basis, we want those transactions to be things that make sense for the American people. Our first and foremost duty is just keep the American people safe and create economic prosperity at home. You can’t have that when the Chinese Communist Party is stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of our most important technology and intellectual property.
QUESTION: Yeah. I think to the average American, when they look at that, for instance, that the World Bank – which the United States contributes about $1.5 billion a year. We – it’s not solely operated by us, but we see China getting somewhere between 1 and 1.5 billion a year and they’re using it across purposes. I think the average American is saying this doesn’t add up, and I think finally we have an administration that agrees with the American people that this doesn’t make sense.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re working our way through that. At the World Bank, we made real progress to make sure that the precise situation that you describe is tapered off just as quickly as we can. I’ve spoken with the new leader at the World Bank. He understands this and he understands how the American people’s taxpayer dollars that go to that institution shouldn’t be used in ways that are detrimental to America’s security.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, another – I want to switch gears to another topic and how this administration – and you’ve said this on this program before – that religious freedom is a top priority in terms of our foreign policy. It’s also a top priority domestically, but in our foreign policy, it’s been a top priority that you, at the direction of the President, have carried out.
The President brought attention to a Iranian woman that had been missing, and now we have evidence of where she’s at.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Tony, we’re deeply concerned by reports that we’ve seen that the Iranian regime did, in fact, arrest Fatemeh Mohammadi. She goes by Mary. Mary’s been targeted by the regime because she made the choice to convert to Christianity. The President spoke about this at the prayer breakfast. You and I both know this. The regime that leads the Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t respect religious freedom. And these kinds of arrests, they happen, sadly, far too often in Iran. And it’s a brutal regime. And the American people should know that as long as it continues to deny its people the right to practice whatever faith they choose, the United States will be hard at and continue to call it out and do our level best to hold them accountable for this terrible repression of someone who simply wanted to exercise her own conscience and her desire to be a Christian.
QUESTION: And to that end, we’re seeing other countries join in this effort of putting a focus – some maybe lip service initially, but I think they’re coming along. There’s an alliance that’s been announced that the United States is leading on religious freedom, where we’re going to – I think those countries that refuse to recognize this fundamental human right are going to be kind of outliers, ostracized from the global community. And if there’s anything that this administration would leave as a legacy, that certainly could be it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re working hard on it. President Trump has made it a real priority. He’s also given me here at the State Department the full authority to do this.
You’re exactly right. We’ve created – we’ve done alliances on security before and we’ve done alliances for business issues. We’ve put together the first coalition of countries based on a human right, the International Religious Freedom Alliance, a couple dozen countries to start. We hope to build it out. But it has a real mission. It’s not about creating another entity for the sake of creating an entity. It’s – it has a real mission of identifying places where we can make real progress in securing that most fundamental of human rights, the ability for an individual to exercise his or her conscience, her own belief, her own faith, and live out her life in the way that – her religious life in the way that she wants to.
We’re dedicated to it. We’re focused on it. We think this alliance will, in conjunction with the annual gatherings that we hold here at the State Department, begin to make a priority issue for the world, not just for the United States, religious freedom.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you for taking time out on a very busy schedule today and joining us, and as always, appreciate not only coming on the program, but appreciate all that you are doing at the State Department.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Tony. Bless you. Have a great day.
QUESTION: All right, you too.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So long.