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US-China tensions

China has no true allies, Pompeo adviser Miles Yu says

US eyes 'alliance of democracies' to counter Beijing

Pro-Beijing supporters at a rally underneath the Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower sing and wave Chinese national flags in Hong Kong during the protests of 2019.    © Reuters

NEW YORK -- In a rare public appearance, Miles Yu, the Chinese-born policy adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, rejected Chinese President Xi Jinping's stand for multilateralism at the United Nations General Assembly and said China had no real friends.

"Shared values -- that's the foundation for multilateralism," Yu said Tuesday in an online discussion on Hong Kong hosted by the Canadian think tank Macdonald-Laurier Institute. He noted that an "alliance of democracies" was forming to counter China's threat, but the same cannot be said for countries rallying around Beijing.

"We have countries like ... Japan, Australia, the U.K., Canada, EU, NATO and ASEAN organization countries, we all share the same values," he said.

"China has none that it can be trusted" as a true ally, he said. "North Korea is useless for the [Chinese Communist Party] for the most part. Russia is playing a hard-to-get game with Beijing."

"So it's very ironic yesterday to hear Xi Jinping at the U.N. to talk about China being the champion of multilateralism," Yu said. "That is a complete reflection of lack of self-awareness."

Pompeo adviser Miles Yu speaks at an online session with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute on Sept. 22.

Yu said that multilateralism is effective when there is a common aim but that multilateralism for its own sake is not. He cited the failed six-party talks on denuclearizing North Korea as an example of drawn-out negotiations that accomplished little.

"The president basically took to Pyongyang, talked to Kim Jong Un directly and neutralized him for what, for a good three and a half years now," Yu said. "So multilateralism is great" but needs a goal, he added.

Yu, originally a Chinese American scholar, is a member of the State Department's policy-planning staff -- the department's internal think tank whose office is reportedly just steps away from Pompeo's in Foggy Bottom.

He is seen to be the Trump administration's key figure in crafting China policy, leading a much tougher line on Beijing, and has drawn Beijing's ire.

Pompeo has portrayed Yu as "a central part of my team," while David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, has called him a "national treasure."

In Tuesday's discussion, Yu described the situation in Hong Kong as a "grand experiment that has failed miserably."

The "one country, two systems" that Beijing promised to maintain for 50 years when the U.K. returned the territory in 1997 is a "bankrupt idea" because of its own "inner contradiction," Yu said. He noted that the eventual unification into "one country" cannot happen if the surviving entity is an autocratic regime.

"The people in Hong Kong have chosen the system of freedom and the rule of law, not the system of communism and autocracy," he said. And "West Germans would not have been united with East Germans" if East Germany had still been run by the Communist Party, Yu said.

"It has also failed because it has completely lost its exemplary effect on Taiwan," he said.

Yu said another element of the Hong Kong experiment is the validity of the Chinese Communist Party's trustworthiness. "Hong Kong is first and foremost a promise made by the CCP in 1984," he said, referring to the Sino-British Joint Declaration stipulating the terms of the handover.

"It's a promise of a high degree of autonomy for 50 years, backed by judicial independence, free press, individual liberty, the rule of law," he said. "This promise was made; this promise has been broken."

There should be a huge reputational cost to the Communist Party, Yu said, "because the country without credibility cannot be the leader of the world."

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