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Mike Pompeo’s divisive bid will be to no avail

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. AFP

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo never hides his abhorrence of China. On issues ranging from Huawei to Sino-US trade, he has repeatedly bad-mouthed the country with fanatical zeal.

Thus it comes as no surprise that during his visit to the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan on Sunday, he again indulged in mudslinging, telling senior Kazakh officials to be wary of Chinese investment and influence and urging it to join in the chorus the United States is leading demanding an end to China’s “repression” of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Pompeo’s attempts to be subtle, saying that the US wanted Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries “to be sovereign and independent”, were undermined by his admission that Washington wanted “to help them achieve that”.

He could have saved himself much time and energy trying to alienate Kazakhstan from China with a hyped-up threat by doing his homework on Sino-Kazakh relations. Contrary to the US’ seeming belief that the transition of power in Kazakhstan last year provides a good opportunity for the US to drive a wedge between China and Kazakhstan, bilateral relations have withstood the test of time and the ever-changing international situation and will not be shaken by the machinations of Washington.

China is now Kazakhstan’s second-largest trade partner after Russia, and its largest export market.         It was at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University that President Xi Jinping first proposed, in September 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt, which along with his subsequent proposal for a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, forms the Belt and Road Initiative for greater connectivity. Kazakhstan has enthusiastically aligned its own national development strategy with the initiative.

Given such close economic and political bonds, it is wishful thinking for Pompeo to believe he can sow the seeds of discord between the two good neighbours.

Especially, how can people take the words seriously from a former chief of intelligence who speaking of his time as the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency said “we lied, we cheated, we stole”?

Washington certainly has good reasons to develop bilateral ties with Kazakhstan, given its proximity to Afghanistan, where the US army is trapped in a long-lasting war, and its vast economic potential – it now already contributes to 60 percent of Central Asia’s gross domestic product.

But diplomacy is not a zero-sum game and opposing China “at every turn”, as Pompeo has vowed to do, may not necessarily help the US achieve its own geopolitical goals. Cooperation, rather than confrontation, would serve its interests better. CHINA DAILY


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