Pence’s speech comes at a crucial time in the U.S.-China relationship as the two countries remain locked in a trade war and jostle for military and commercial dominance in the Pacific. White House officials have debated for weeks how critical Pence should be, underscoring the stakes of his remarks, which come just a day before negotiators talk about progress toward agreeing on a phase one agreement over trade.
The vice president was careful to balance his criticism with an olive branch. Rather than “decoupling” the two countries, the U.S. “seeks engagement with China and China’s engagement with the wider world,” he said. “Despite the great power competition that is underway and America’s growing strength, we want better for China.”
Pence’s most stinging criticism of China was indirect, in remarks targeting Nike Inc. and the NBA.
“Nike promotes itself as a so-called ‘social-justice champion,’ but when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door,” Pence said.
He accused the NBA of “siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech.” The league apologized after an executive of the Houston Rocketsissued a tweet supportive of Hong Kong protesters, outraging Chinese authorities and many NBA fans in the country.
“The NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime,” Pence said.
The reasonably balanced nature of Mike Pence’s speech which was originally slated for June and was expected to be much more explosive is a positive for the trade situation and suggests the USA foreign policy hawks are willing to negotiate. The question of whether a Phase 1 deal will in fact be signed in a few weeks at the Santiago conference remains a source of near-term uncertainty.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top