Chinese state media over the weekend slammed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments in South America, where he cautioned against vast China’s investments in the region, saying his remarks were “ignorant and malicious.”
The secretary of state said he was not against legitimate Chinese investments, but “when China comes calling it’s not always to the good of your citizens,” Pompeo said Thursday in Mexico City, according to comments posted on the U.S. State Department’s website.
“When they show up with a straight-up, legitimate investment that’s transparent and according to the rule of law, that’s called competition and it’s something that the United States welcomes,” said Pompeo. “But when they show up with deals that seem to be too good to be true it’s often the case that they, in fact, are.”
Pompeo, who was visiting Panama and Mexico, took issue with how Chinese “state-owned enterprises show up in a way that is clearly not transparent, clearly not market-driven, and is designed not to benefit the people of Panama but rather to benefit the Chinese Government.”
“Those are the kind of things we think are both inappropriate and not good for the people of Panama or any other country where China is engaged in this kind of predatory economic activity,” he said.
“Such wild remarks are what we have come to expect from members of the Trump administration, being based on neither truth nor fact,” the newspaper said in an editorial on Sunday.
The project aims to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa with vast logistics and transport networks. While Beijing has touted the project as a mutual economic development initiative, it’s widely seen as an attempt by China to construct a massive, multi-national zone of economic and political influence that has Beijing at its core.
“Pompeo’s latest undisguised message to Panama and other countries not to participate in China-proposed Belt and Road projects lays bare the U.S. condescending and bullying manner to the region,” said the English-language China Daily.
“Washington continually tries this tired old tactic of trying to pin suspicions about China’s motives on the Belt and Road so as hinder its advancement,” the newspaper added.
The Global Times newspaper, which is linked to the Chinese Communist Party, said in a separate editorial that Pompeo’s comments were “disrespectful.”
The U.S. was “trying to drive a wedge” between China and South America, it said in an op-ed on Sunday.
“For years, Latin American countries have been pursuing peace and development, on which, however, the U.S. did not offer much support. Latin American countries depend on the U.S. economy, but the U.S. does not make the region rich and prosperous,” the nationalistic newspaper said.
“Relations between China and Latin America are based on mutual respect and equality. As China is winning trust and support from Latin America, the U.S. feels lost and is trying to drive a wedge,” Global Times added.
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was speaking in Mexico City.