President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina later this month in a crucial test of where the two sides stand in the ongoing trade war.
But Vice President Mike Pence gave a dire warning to China in a recent interview with the Washington Post, where he warned of an all-out cold war with the U.S. and its partners if China does not change its behavior.
The U.S. will not back down, Pence said in the interview.
Per the Washington Post:
Pence told me in an interview that Trump is leaving the door open for a deal with Xi in Argentina, but only if Beijing is willing to make massive changes that the United States is demanding in its economic, military and political activities. The vice president said this is China’s best (if not last) chance to avoid a cold-war scenario with the United States.
“I think much of that will depend on Argentina,” Pence said. “The president’s attitude is, we want to make sure they know where we stand, what we are prepared to do, so they can come to Argentina with concrete proposals that address not just the trade deficit that we face … We’re convinced China knows where we stand.”
In addition to lessening its trade surplus with the U.S., Pence said China must stop its rampant intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, restricted access to Chinese markets, respect for international rules and norms, efforts to limit freedom of navigation in international waters and Chinese Communist Party interference in the politics of western countries.
If it does not, Pence said, the U.S. is prepared to escalate economic, diplomatic and political pressure on China. He also said the U.S. economy is strong enough to weather such an escalation while China’s economy has been sputtering.
“We really believe we are in a strong position either way. We are at $250 billion [in tariffs] now; we can more than double that,” Pence said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of promises. We’re looking for results. We’re looking for a change of posture.”
Pence also said China must end its aggressive and dangerous tactics in the South China Sea.
“We will not be intimidated,” he said. “We will not stand down. We will continue to exercise freedom of navigation.”
I asked him what would happen if Beijing doesn’t agree to act in Asia in a way that can avoid a cold war with the United States.
“Then so be it,” Pence said. “We are here to stay.”