Good morning. What a great day. What an honor to have our Secretary
of State with us today to share his views on foreign policy. And what a
great way to inspire many of our own students. By the way some people
they think that being an engineer may not necessarily be the right path to
become a diplomat or let alone our chief diplomat. And it turns out, you’re
about to hear an engineer.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s exactly right.
MR CABRERA: That was your major, wasn’t it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It was a long time ago. Yes.
MR CABRERA: A long time ago – so there you have it. But you can also come to Georgia Tech and not study engineering, but study international relations. And even though some people associate normally Georgia Tech with a very, very good – one of the best engineering schools in the world – we’re proud of that – we do a lot more than just engineering.
And since I have your attention, I’m going to put in a little plug for all those wonderful things that we do. And by the way, we have today with us the dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, Kaye Husbands Fealing – she’s waving over there. And I don’t know if the chair of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Adam Stulberg, is here or not, but – so, yes, there is very strong and very exciting school of international affairs at Georgia Tech.
We believe strongly that in a place that is as rich in science and technology as Georgia Tech that can provide a very interesting context for diplomacy and for policy setting. We are committed as an institution to educating leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. That is our – that’s – that is our mission. And of course that bears – brings up the question of what are the aspects of the human condition that need to be improved. And that requires not only strong science and technology, but it requires a lot of policy and liberal arts and history and understanding of what are the issues that the world faces.
We understand that many of the biggest problems that we face as a species or even the problems that affect us in the United States and here in Georgia are global in nature. And understanding the dynamics of how decisions are made on a global scale is fundamental for the work that we do. And that’s why we’re so proud of the work that the Nunn School carries out at Georgia Tech. By the way, we have some incredibly distinguished faculty in the school including Admiral Sandy Winnefeld and General Phil Breedlove and Doctor Elizabeth Sherwood‑Randall who have played roles either in the – in the U.S. defense or in the federal level. And we have many other incredibly important faculty.
Anyway, so we’re delighted once again and always be remissed to highlight how important it is for us again that Georgia Tech be a place of debate, of discussion – not just Georgia Tech, but all of our universities are to be places where we bring people together to discuss the big issues of our time in an absolutely open – in an open way. And I couldn’t think of anybody better to bring a discussion about our nation’s policies in relation to China than our chief diplomat, Secretary Pompeo. And it is my distinct honor to introduce him to you. You know that Secretary Pompeo is the 70th person to have this job. The first one, I guess, must have been Thomas Jefferson. What a distinguished line of individuals that you follow.
Secretary Pompeo has had a whole number of jobs. I don’t know if you know how to keep a job, but not – there is a very positive side to that, of course, which is that you have accumulated a host of experience that I think very few people can. Secretary Pompeo has been a soldier. He has been an attorney. He has been a business leader. He has been an elected official. He has run our intelligence. And now he is our chief diplomat.
He is also slightly competitive, I’ve found, reading about him. Everything he does, he wants to do it well. He wants to be best in class. So when he went to West Point, he graduated very first in his class. And then when he went to Harvard for law school, he was editor of the law review which is one of the biggest honors for a law school student at Harvard. When he served our military, I think it caught you at a very interesting time patrolling up and down the Iron Curtain in – between West Germany and East Germany, and right before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And as we were trying to figure out earlier, he may be – we don’t know this, but he may be the first person who has been the head of the State Department having been director of the CIA, which what an interesting perspective that would – that would give you.
So with that background, his absolutely really has a fascinating background, and I’m incredibly honored – incredibly honored on behalf of all of us at Georgia Tech to welcome and please join me for a warm welcome to the Secretary of State of the United States, Secretary Pompeo. Please.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thanks for that kind introduction. Welcome. Good morning, everyone. I love having the liberal arts dean back there. It was always a big challenge when I was in school making sure I got the periods and the paragraphs, everything just right. I like the math, zeros and ones. President Cabrera, thanks for the very warm introduction that you gave me today. I want to personally thank you and Lynn for hosting our entire team here. When I come, it’s not always simple. And especially in these times, it’s even trickier with all the requirements. I thank you for getting that right.
And thank you too to all the leaders here at Georgia Tech and students. Those of you watching virtually, I appreciate you joining me for what I hope will be a good conversation today. I have some opening remarks, and then President Cabrera and I will have a chance to have a lively conversation.
I know we have a special guests, some good friends: former congressman Phil Gingrey is here. Phil, good to see you. Senator Chambliss, thank you too. When I was nominated to be the CIA director, Senator Chambliss was so gracious. He had spent so much time in the Intelligence Community. You were so gracious to me to help me figure out what was up and what was down, and I deeply appreciate that. It’s good to see you again.
As President Cabrera said, I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point studying engineering, although I joke, don’t drive across a bridge that I had anything to do with. It’s been an awfully long time.
Some of my classmates ended up in the Army Corps of Engineers. I happened to command a cavalry unit. But I can tell you math matters an awful lot when you’re bore-sighting the cannon of an M1A1 tank.
And I’ll say, too, even the State Department – you talked about people leaving this institution going on to careers in diplomacy. One of the first things that came across my desk as Secretary of State was there was an important dam across a bridge in Iraq and it was in trouble, and we were trying to figure out could we figure out how to save it, could we figure out how to deploy resources in a difficult place. And we had the best engineers in the U.S. Government, some of whom worked for me at the United States Department of State, trying to figure out the best solution, the best contractor to bring in, how we would do this to protect Baghdad and the downstream places in this historic Euphrates River Valley and the Tigris River Valley from potential flooding should the dam collapse. So all you engineers out there, state.gov. Go to the website, take a good look at it. We would welcome your career in the United States Department of State.
Now, you know I’m not lost. I know this is Georgia the state not Georgia the country. (Laughter.) But it’s important that I come here to talk about the topic that I have in front of us today because this is the place where American national security intersects deeply with the things that happen at important research institutions like this one.
I thought I’d start with a quick story, by way of explanation. Professor Fei-Ling Wang is with us here today. Professor, where – I didn’t see you sitting? Welcome. Nice to see you.
Several years ago, Professor Wang took a trip to China where he was scooped up by security agents inside of China. He was held in a secret location for two weeks. Professor Wang was interrogated and threatened. They wanted information about his research about China and his time teaching at my alma mater, West Point. He could tell you the stories better than I could. But they thought they could intimidate him or perhaps recruit him because he’s ethnically Chinese.
It’s a blessing he’s here with us today. And thankfully, he was released after pressure from the leadership of lots of places, including this very university and the Carter Center.
The lesson I think that we can take away from this is clear. It’s that the Chinese Communist Party wants what we have, and they will do whatever they must do to take it and get it. They will steal our stuff. They will pressure critics of the Chinese Communist Party to keep quiet. They will do whatever it takes.
And it’s important to come and talk with the American people about this because Americans must know how the Chinese Communist Party is poisoning the well of our higher education institutions for its own ends, and how those actions degrade our freedoms and American national security. If we don’t educate ourselves, if we’re not honest about what’s taking place, we’ll get schooled by Beijing.
Now, it’s taken this country and indeed, the entire free world, a long time to understand the trajectory that China is on today. In fact, we’re not quite there yet everywhere in the world.
There’s no one to hold accountable for this. That’s not the important part. Because for a long time, Republicans, Democrats, leaders all across academia, institutions, commercial space thought that by trading and engaging with China that the Chinese Communist Party would reform itself, it would loosen up, it would embrace economic and political freedom, and it would present less risk to freedom around the world.
But instead, that’s not what we got. Instead, the Chinese communists used the wealth that was created by this to tighten their grip on power, their grip on power over the Chinese people, and to build a high-tech repressive state like the world has never seen.
General Secretary Xi Jinping has made clear his intentions. You only have to listen to what he says. He says he wants total control at home, and to make China the number-one power abroad. And he’s well on his way to working on that project.
He’s building up the People’s Liberation Army. He’s manipulating international organizations for Beijing’s benefit. And he’s engaging – as we have seen in TV only just these last two days, he’s engaging in a vast influence campaign all across the world.
And that may for some of you sitting at home today seem like a long ways away and very ambitious touch for Xi Jinping to make, but I must say he has his eye on each and every one of us.
Over the past year I’ve talked to America’s governors in Washington about this, state legislators in Wisconsin, tech leaders in Silicon Valley, and many other groups. I’ve gone out to talk to them about this challenge. And today, I want to talk about what’s happening in schools across America, especially research institutions and places like where I’m standing today.
Just think about it. Chinese Communist Party scientists aren’t pioneering cancer cures. We are. And it’s not North Korean biochemists that are producing safe COVID vaccines. We are. And Iranians aren’t ahead in supercomputing. No. In fact, we are. It is the free world and free peoples that produce these superior results. And we should be very proud of that fact.
But we have an obligation to protect it, to preserve it, to make sure that that’s the case 10 and 50 and 100 years from now.
Because on places like this campus, scientists have pioneered quantum computing, artificial intelligence, pediatric technology, even autonomous robots that can function without human control – and I must say that frightens me just a bit.
Look, the Chinese Communist Party knows it can never match our innovation. It has state-owned enterprises; it’s an authoritarian regime; it is a government-centric focus. That’s why it sends 400,000 students a year to the United States of America to study – 400,000 students a year studying in our universities come from one country. It is no accident.
Much of the high-end industrial base inside of China is based on stolen technology, or technology purchased from other nations. It’s not home-grown.
Beijing doesn’t want Chinese researchers to stay here in the United States. Indeed, after they’re trained, they want them to come back. They want to induce their return for the singular purpose of serving the Socialist Motherland.
Look, the Party’s propaganda apparatus cannot tolerate pesky Americans or Chinese nationals exposing its bankrupt system, or the fact that the Chinese people can actually flourish when they are in free societies.
It doesn’t want you to know what I’m about to tell you.
Now, let’s be clear. I want to be sure that my language is precise today. When I say “China,” I’m talking about the Chinese Communist Party. I love and value, as we all do, our Chinese American community, and the Chinese people that live here in the United States and those that live in China as well. We want good things for them.
And I say “genuinely” because of cases like Xin Wang, a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco, who allegedly lied about being a People’s Liberation Army officer, all the while collecting information on UC-SF labs. The good news is the FBI nabbed him.
And Ji Chaoqun studied electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He tried to enlist in the United States Army. He allegedly omitted his ties to Chinese intelligence, which tasked him with recruiting engineers and scientists where he was working.
These are just two examples, but what’s more: the Chinese Communist Party deploys dollars just as much as it does cloaks and daggers to get its hands on valuable knowledge.
There are many American scholars – often doing research funded by American taxpayers – that have been lured into the Chinese Communist Party’s talent recruitment programs. The CCP pays them what is for them a fortune to do research related to their current fields for, or in, China – and then often uses the fruits of their brainpower to build its military strength.
A researcher from my home state of Kansas was caught up in this trap, as was the Harvard chemistry department head. Think about that.
The Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, recently described the CCP’s strategy as “rob, replicate and replace.”
But I want to add another “r” to the DNI’s list: I want to add “repress.”
Yang Shuping, a student from China, delivered a commencement address at the University of Maryland back in 2017, just a couple years back now. She praised “the fresh air of free speech.” She was soon demonized and harassed by CCP propaganda – propaganda outlets. I promise you, while I cannot tell you everything, that was no coincidence.
One University of Georgia student said of the CCP secret police in 2018, quote, “They have harassed me repeatedly and asked me to give them information about the activities of overseas democracy activists and dissidents, [and] they are particularly interested in the activities of Uyghurs and Tibetans,” end of quote.
Some of the CCP’s biggest victims on campuses are innocent Chinese nationals themselves, and this is a tragedy. We have a responsibility to police this.
Another example: At Princeton, just this year, students in a Chinese politics class were forced to use code names on their work, lest the CCP discover their identities, and prosecute them for free expression of views on Hong Kong and the CCP under its draconian new national security law. That’s right here. This happened right here in the United States of America. American students.
American students talk about “safe spaces” as shelter from ideas they dislike. Chinese students need safe spaces to learn of the ideas that they love. What a stark contrast.
Students from China at American universities also live in fear that their families back home will be arrested, will be interrogated, tortured – or worse – because of things they say in an American classroom.
But look, the CCP doesn’t just target Chinese nationals. They want to influence American students as well, professors and administrators too.
Look, they know that left-leaning college campuses are rife with anti-Americanism, and present easy targets for their anti-American messaging.
That’s why they planted Confucius Institutes on our campuses. And under President Trump, our State Department has made very clear these Confucius Institutes are literally up to no good. Many have gone away. Many campuses have seen that and they’ve chosen to close down these institutes. But right here in Georgia, Wesleyan College still has one in Macon.
Look, it’s why there are groups on campuses called Chinese Students and Scholars Associations here too. They’re directed and almost always funded by the Chinese Embassy or a local Chinese consulate. Its purpose: to keep tabs on students and to press pro-Beijing causes.
Now, you would think at freedom-loving places like Georgia Tech and institutions and scholars all across the world, administrators, school faculty would be more up in arms about the Chinese Communist Party’s outright theft and flagrant violation of freedoms that I’ve described, but we see it too seldom.
Well, why? Why do schools censor themselves? They often do it out of fear of offending China.
Indeed I must tell you that MIT wasn’t interested in having me to their campus to give this exact set of remarks. President Raphael Reif implied that my arguments might insult their ethnic Chinese students and professors. But of course nothing could further from the truth. These are the very people that this set of remarks is intended to protect, to protect their freedoms.
And I must say, the yielding to the objection of hurt feelings plays right into the Chinese Communist Party’s hands. They watch America closely. It’s what the party says constantly in response to legitimate criticism around the world. You can see it.
And how would the party know how the Chinese people feel anyway, as no one ever gets to vote?
Look, we can’t let the CCP weaponize political correctness against American liberties. We have to protect and preserve them.
Fraudulent cries of racism or Sinophobia should never drown out a candid exposure of the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.
But we see too often on American campuses that there is silence and censorship. It’s being driven by the Chinese Communist Party. It usually boils down to something far less idealistic. So many of our colleges are bought by Beijing.
Let me tell you about Vera Zhou.
She’s a permanent of the resident of the United States of America. She’s originally from China and a senior at the University of Washington.
In October of 2017, so just on three years ago, she returned to China to visit her father. Local authorities put her in a re-education camp, a re-education camp for five months and under house arrest for 18 months after using a virtual private network connection to connect to her school’s website, something many of you are doing even as I speak.
Back here, we saw this. Our State Department team; Vera’s mother; Bob Fu, a great friend of the Chinese people, desperately petitioned the University of Washington to advocate for her return.
But the University of Washington, a woman named Sarah Castro, head of the federal relations office, said – she said that the university wouldn’t help because of a multi-million dollar deal with China.
Now, thank God, Vera was eventually released and returned to the United States, but no thanks to the University of Washington and no thanks to the deal that it had made with the Chinese Communist Party.
The U.S. Department of Education over the last years has found that schools have taken an estimated $1.3 billion from China since 2013. That’s just what we know about. Like so many – like Columbia – so many schools that have failed to report the true amounts.
What more – what more bad decisions will schools make because they are hooked on Chinese Communist Party cash?
What professors will they be able to co-opt or to silence?
What theft and espionage will they simply overlook? What business deals will get done as a result of that?
Look, there’s a lot of work to do. And I have laid out a pattern and practice that every American needs to know about.
And we need to begin to respond to this sooner rather than later. And our administration has begun to do that, but there is an awful lot more work to do.
We cannot allow this tyrannical regime to steal our stuff, to build their military might and brainwash our people, or buy off our institutions to help them cover up these activities.
We cannot – we cannot let the CCP crush the academic freedom that has blessed our country and blessed us with great institutions like the place that I am standing today.
But we need your help.
We need help of students. We need help of faculty. We need help of administrations all across America. We need trustees to police their endowments and the deals their universities are striking with the CCP and CCP-backed groups.
We need administrators to close Confucius Institutes and investigate what so-called student groups backed by the CCP money are actually up to on their campuses. The government will help, but we need people to assist us.
We need researchers to be vigilant against fraud and theft, and the academic community to reject the CCP’s financial siren songs.
And we need students to truly stand for free speech – the free speech for themselves, those who grew up here in America, and especially the free speech of Chinese students who are on our campuses, who are here to study and learn and to improve their rights, their lives, and to enjoy the fruits of the freedom that we provide them here in the United States of America.
Look, we need you all to speak to truth to power in solidarity when administrations exert pressures on censorship as has so often happened to project deals – protect deals with Beijing.
Let’s do this. Let’s carry forward a banner of freedom to defend our schools, what these institutions were built upon. It will aid our national security. And from the central threat of our time, the Chinese Communist Party.
President Cabrera, I’m looking forward to our vigorous conversation.
I thank you all for your attention this morning.
May God bless the State of Georgia and the United
States. Thank you for having me here this morning. (Applause.)
MR CABRERA: Thank you so much, Secretary. And I appreciate you coming here and – let me – you bring so many important and incredibly difficult questions for us. You know that Georgia Tech, we’re a proud partner of the United States Government. We are one of the most research-intense universities in the country. The head of our Georgia Tech Research Institute is in attendance. That organization alone does about $750 million in research grants, a lot of that classified work with different agencies in the government. The overall institute does over a billion dollars of grants every year. We’re very proud. Not all of that, of course, is funded, but most – the bulk of that – is. So we take issues of protection of our ideas and intellectual property very, very, very seriously.
At the same time, we attract amazing Chinese students, undergraduate and graduate students, some of whom join faculty ranks and contribute to making American science and technology the way you described it, the most competitive in the world. So help us figure out a way – how can we even frame these seemingly incompatible objectives of continuing to leverage that advantage to bring all that talent in without putting our national interest at risk?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So it’s the exact right question and it is not a simple thing to answer. What I can say with certainty is that we’ve had the balance completely wrong for decades. That is, we had an open spigot for these risks to be present in our system without the balance and checks that are required. And so you see – if you watch what the Trump administration has done with respect to this, we still – this year it’s different because of the virus, but in 2021, 2022 there’ll be 350, 360,000 Chinese students that come to America. We want these students here, but there has to be a process, there has to be a rigorous evaluation. And some of that is the responsibility of the United States Government to undertake and we have to do a better job of doing that, but we need institutions too that are transparent, that are clear, that are following the requirements, both Department of – U.S. Department of Education requirements, the requirements to make sure that U.S. property rights are protected in the way that you just described. If you have someone invent something, we want the fruits of that effort to benefit the United States of America and not end up being used to surveil American citizens in cities all across the world.
We’ve had the balance fundamentally wrong because there was this notion that there was no cost connected to permitting the risk that the Chinese Communist Party identified, the opportunity that they saw, and the efforts they have undertaken. You all would have seen – it’s been a few months back now – we want Chinese diplomats to be here engaged in diplomacy, but the Chinese Communist Party was using their consulate in Houston as a den of spies. And for an awfully long time, the United States just said we’re not going to do anything about that. That’s unacceptable. That’s unacceptable to the American people from a national security perspective, it’s unacceptable to the people of Houston and the businesses that are there that these so-called diplomats are out stealing their stuff, and so we did the work. We collectively – the United States Government did the work, identified the problem set, and solved the problem.
This is the model that we have to use. The model has been for an awfully long time they’re – it’s a big country, there’s enormous economic opportunity by engaging with them, let’s just do that and hope things turn out well. It’s too dangerous. The Chinese Communist Party has a mission set. We only need to listen to General Secretary Xi Jinping’s vision for global hegemony and the capacity that he has developed to actually execute. He has capability and intent. Those are the things that present risk to Americans, and we have a responsibility to take on these hard problems, to protect American freedom, to welcome citizens who want to come study at our universities from all across the world, but do so with an eye towards making sure that we do all the things that we are duty-bound to ensure that we protect.
MR CABRERA: So thank you. It turns out I am – I myself came to this country as an international student, so I grew up in Spain. I was lucky enough to get a Fulbright Scholarship, one of the wonderful programs of the United States State Department, and I have experienced it personally, how thousands and thousands of smart young people around the world, they dream of coming to a great American university. That’s – they don’t dream to go to somewhere else. They want to be here, so always sensitive to, again, being smart about the way you described it, about protecting our interest and at the same time not send the message that would somehow weaken that huge advantage that we have, right, that we have first pick. It’s almost like we have first draft picks every year. Smart people around the world, we get to choose first.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, absolutely.
MR CABRERA: So how do we continue to send that message that wait, wait a second, we want smart people to come here?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: So given that you’re our first, our number one salesman also, that’s I guess part of your job description.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I think I just sent exactly that message. This is why I’m here. We want these students, but when they’re here, it can’t be the case that they live in fear, right – these institutions – you all have an obligation to protect these students as well. These students are returning home to suffer. A Fulbright student coming in from some country ought not be returned to their home country and to suffer from the jack-booted thugs that now want to take the information that they got, send them back into the United States only to have them just take a little bit more information that they’re going to hand off to the Chinese MSS, their security apparatus, or the People’s Liberation Army, their formal military team, or to the Chinese intelligence services.
This is not the best of America. We have a responsibility to those Chinese students, too, in addition to the duty that I described to protect American national security. We have an imperative to get this right. And when we do, I am convinced, President Cabrera, I am convinced that this will still be a beacon. The number of American students studying in China in 2021 I didn’t refer to. It’s very small. Why?
MR CABRERA: I have it here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Why? Why is that? It’s because if you want to be a technologist, if you want to be an innovator, if you want access to capital, if you want to be around a network, an ecosystem of innovators to create the next great whatever it is you want to go create, where do you do it? You do it in the United States of America. We cannot forfeit that capacity by allowing the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate our research institutions and take that away from us. After all, it is the American private sector, the American taxpayers, taxpayers in the state of Georgia have invested in preserving, promoting, and building out this enormous capacity.
It’s – we’ve lived in a bit of a fantasy world for the last 40 years. It is time for the – it is time for the balance to be struck to both maintain our competitive advantage and protect the American advantage from the threats that the Chinese Communist Party has clearly stated they intend to – the costs they intend to impose upon us.
MR CABRERA: Yeah. So I have the data. In fact, this is your data. (Laughter.) This is the open door —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I know it well. Yes.
MR CABRERA: And we – I love it, by the way, keep this – this is the best source of information we get every year. And speaking of imbalances, that’s another imbalance I wanted to discuss with you. Right. So we get about – I mean, give or take, we get about a million international students in the U.S. every year. About half of that comes from China and India alone. A third – more than a third, like 35 percent is from China. Then, when you turn the page, you’re absolutely right. The number of American students that go to China – China is not even the number-one destination – is 11,000.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: So here’s what I’m thinking. Okay, you’ve been a businessman. So you land in Shanghai. You go to a boardroom to make a deal, and it turns out that the guys on the other side of the table, they speak English, they know our culture, they watch our movies, they laugh at our jokes, they know all about us. In most cases, we don’t – we know very little about their culture. Shouldn’t we be sending a vastly larger number of American students to China to learn their culture? And not to stay there and set up their companies; we want them back here in Atlanta – Midtown, by the way, Tech Square. (Laughter.) But to learn about China.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: Don’t you think that would be a good idea.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is an enormous knowledge gap, enormous knowledge imbalance. I would – I would agree with that. I would tell you that we work very hard at the State Department. We are nowhere near where we need to be to have enough Mandarin speakers so that we can understand, even at the most senior diplomatic levels in the United States, that we have the capability to watch and read what’s coming out in the Mandarin-language press from China. So it is an enormous undertaking.
You talked about this as an imbalance. One of the central theses of our policy with respect to China these past four years has in fact been about that, about reciprocity. So imagine now you are a company here at Georgia Tech and you want to go build out a business in China because you want to sell to the 1.4 billion people there, and you need to make an investment. The rules for you to invest there are radically different than some young person in China who’d like to come invest here in Atlanta. That’s not right. We need fair and reciprocal rules when it comes to foreign direct investment. We need fair and reciprocal rules when it comes to press reporting.
So one of the reasons we know so much less about the Chinese culture has less to do with the number of students and the fact that a person who is a credentialed Western reporter inside of China can’t move around freely. This is an enormous imbalance. We’ve tried to take that on. We had Chinese propaganda outlets here in the United States that were running free and clear while valid U.S. media companies that wanted to report on what was taking place – by the way, at an incredibly important time when the Chinese Communist Party was permitting the export of a virus around the world – and they couldn’t get to the places that they needed to get to find the information that would have been very valuable for the United States to have had in a timely fashion. So there’s an enormous information imbalance attached to that.
I talked about one reason there’s only 11,000 American students traveling to China. It’s that they don’t want them there. They don’t want Americans. Why? Because when Americans go to a college campus – you’ve seen it. I traveled the campus a bit this morning. Students jogging, running, talking, having fun, inquiring, doing the things that we do in a place, a democracy, a republic like our country. This is not the Chinese campus. And so there is an imbalance there, and we have to work to convince and impose cost on the Chinese Communist Party until such time as there is reciprocity in every space. The President talked about it in trade. We’ve talked about it in terms of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. I could go through the list of places where we have for decades permitted the Chinese Communist Party to have an exception to every international rule.
So what’s a good other example? The World Trade Organization, an important institution to make lives better, for jobs for people right here in the state of Georgia. Nearly every country participates (inaudible) the Chinese Communist Party says: No, we’re special. We should be a developing country with a set of trade preferences that benefit China enormously. And what – the Americans just for decades – this isn’t partisan – both political parties just said we’re going to let that – we’re going to let that pass. It can’t be. It can’t be any longer.
And this is what President Trump has said: We’re not going to do that anymore. We’re going to demand that China comply with the same set of rules that every other nation is asked to comply with. And when we do, America will be safer and more secure. America will be more prosperous. Our allies and partners in Southeast Asia and in South Korea and in Australia and in Europe, they’ll be safer and more prosperous. And we will build out a coalition that simply demands that sovereign nations compete on a fair and level playing field.
It should happen in academia. It should happen in the commercial space. If we get that right, America will be just fine.
MR CABRERA: So let me bring the topic to something that I know would be of particular interest to many of our students, which is the role of science and technology in American diplomacy. I mean, given that we are in a century of this is a knowledge economy where we win or lose by our innovation, by our science; even our military strength relies more and more on —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Of course.
MR CABRERA: What is the role of scientists and engineers and technologists in driving or influencing and shaping American foreign policy? Do you have folks like us around in the State Department? I mean, what is the role?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We do. We have them in a handful of places. The two most prominent – we have a science and technology group. And then we also have a huge group of folks that are – that we call our economic team led by a fellow named Keith Krach, invented a company called DocuSign out in Silicon Valley, came to join the State Department to make sure that the United States and China had a set of common understandings around technology. So we spent a lot of time on this.
So I’ll give you one vertical, one space where we’ve worked really hard. So the Chinese Communist Party when it competes around the world has an enormous advantage. It has state sponsorship of nearly every one of their significant enterprises. A young entrepreneur here from Georgia Tech goes out there on their own. They’ve got to raise their own capital. Somebody’s going to want return on that investment. They’ve got to make money. They’ve got to pay their workforce.
Not so in China. Not so. Many of the companies they will come to compete against will have government funding, direct government funding. Not a grant that we might provide to a research institute, but truly will be a state-owned enterprise. This is deeply unfair to the American people and presents enormous risk to American national security as well. And so we set about in one space – I’ll call it the “communications tech space” – to challenge the presumptive global winner, a company called Huawei, that was dominating the next generation of technology called 5G technology. They didn’t win it because they were the fastest and the best. They won it because ultimately they delivered a solution to countries that was cheaper because they had the backing of the Chinese Communist Party and a technology that was good enough.
This had an enormous national security risk that I had seen in my previous role, but it had an enormous commercial risk that we wouldn’t be the – that the West, that the rules-based system wouldn’t be the victor in 5G technology. It’s incredibly important.
And so we set about traveling the world telling the story that says if you have software or hardware that comes from Huawei, you are handing the data of your citizens to the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army. So your child who is on a Chinese piece of software or a Chinese app will be in the hands of the Chinese security apparatus. It’s not whether; their law requires the company to turn this information over to them, and so it’s going to happen. So, parents, think twice before you do this.
But we have a responsibility as a government to protect our citizens, and so we set about doing that and helping citizens around the world do it too. And first, we met on deaf ears because there was a product that was cheap. The Chinese Communist Party would show up and subsidize it, and so it was efficient for governments to put these systems, routers, and servers into their systems.
We today have over 60 countries that have said we’re not going to permit that to happen. Twenty-seven out of 29 EU countries. I think the number now is 67 percent of the globe’s GDP has forsworn technology that is not trusted, right, mandating trusted vendors. And when you limit yourself to trusted IT communications infrastructure vendors, you are by just simple math excluding vendors connected to the Chinese Communist Party.
And so we’ve prevailed. We’ve created space for entrepreneurs, for Ericsson, for Nokia, for companies that will abide by simple rules of protecting data, protecting data privacy for citizens all across the world who will operate in a way that is a true straight-up commercial transaction, who will not provide access to this information to their host country’s militaries on a continuous and repeated and nonvoluntary basis. We fundamentally made that change.
The State Department led that effort. We’re proud of what we have achieved. We still have more. When I say we have 60 countries, I think we have 130 telephone companies – in many countries, the access to this communications is driven not so much by the government, but by the dominant telephone company inside of that country. We’ve got 100-plus telephone companies that have forsworn any – all but trusted vendors. This is where technology, innovation, and diplomacy come together to help America be more secure and more prosperous. It’s a good story. There is an awful lot more work to do in lots more spaces.
MR CABRERA: So – and it creates also one of those incredibly difficult questions to solve. I guess that’s why you get paid the big bucks, as they say, to try to figure out these balances, but – so there are areas of research and technological research that clearly are of a competitive nature, right? We want our fighter jets and our weaponry system to be better than everybody else’s. We want our companies to have products before anybody else. But there are areas of science that are globally mentioned, right? I mean, and the coronavirus —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, yes. Yeah, of course.
MR CABRERA: — is the perfect example, right? At this point, honestly, who cares who comes up with the cure first or the vaccine? What we want is whatever three billion, four billion —
SECRETARY POMPEO: You bet.
MR CABRERA: — people to get the vaccine. In fact, the sooner the Chinese sequence the virus or make that available, the sooner we all could start working on the new RNA vaccine or DNA vaccine or – and so forth. So again, how do you balance the competitive nature of some research areas with the fact that in many of the big questions that we deal with as a species, we’re in this together, right? These are global threats that we all face, that we want smart people everywhere, even in China, to help us figure out.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure, sure. No, this is not – this policy isn’t restrictive, but this advancement of civilization best takes place in the context of the rule of law, the liberal international order, sovereign nations, the protection of property rights – all the things that our founders knew so well. This is not the model that Xi Jinping wants for you and wants for you and your children. It is a very different model. It is a model that ultimately collapses upon itself, but in the meantime, we have an obligation to protect and secure American prosperity. And when we do – I can say this with certainly – when we do, citizens all across the globe will benefit from that.
I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen American technology linked up with technology that was manufactured and developed inside of India linked together to serve people in destitute places in difficult parts of Africa. I’ve watched it improve their lives. And each step along the way, it benefited from the fact that there was someone out there operating in an ecosystem that respected the rule of law, respected property rights, permitted commerce to take place, contracts were honored. If there was – something went amiss, there was a court system that one could resolve the conflict.
This is the West. The West isn’t a place; it’s a concept, it’s an idea. This is the West. And the challenge, the challenge that’s here on campus that I spoke about, is in fact the challenge between freedom and tyranny. It’s the challenge between the ideas that we have in the West and an authoritarian model that has been adopted by the Chinese Communist Party with the sole intention of spreading it as the predominant model around the world.
I – with all my heart, I can tell you, President Cabrera, that is not in the best interests of people anywhere, including inside of China.
MR CABRERA: So let me, if you don’t mind, switch gears a little bit and get somewhat personal. I know many of our students are thinking about careers and career choices, and earlier I joked that you don’t seem to be able to keep a job.
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) I hope you weren’t referring to this one now. (Laughter.)
MR CABRERA: No, no, no, no. Of course, no, but I feel like I could make the joke because I feel somewhat —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: — in the same place. I’ve changed and I’ve done various – as you look back and try to make sense of your career – again, having been a soldier and an attorney and a business leader and so forth —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: — how have these experiences informed even the way you carry out your job now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: I mean, because this is a one-of-a-kind job you have now, but if you look back, what – how did – do those experiences inform, make you – prepare you for this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: If you stare at it in hindsight, one could argue that there has been a progression, that each task that I’ve been – had put in front of me has prepared me, put me in a better place to be, and to at least have the capacity to be more effective in the next job that I took on. I think that’s true. I didn’t set out on that path. No one could dream that you’d be the 70th secretary of the United States of America for goodness’ sake, although I am mindful President Trump is the 45th president. There’s a lot more turnover in my job than there is in his.
I just – I always think back to what my father taught me: Wherever you are, wherever you find yourself, work your tail off. I tell young people – I get asked by young people all the time, “Well, tell me what I should do to be successful,” and the answer is I have seen successful people who are lazy, but not very many. Most people who find success, however they define it, achieve that because they were prepared to make sacrifices, to make tradeoffs in their life, and to work really, really hard.
The second thing is to grow where you’re potted. Don’t be chasing that next stream. Don’t spend your time looking over the horizon about the job you want someday. I have not found that to work, not just for myself but in all the others who I’ve helped and tried to mentor. In the end, if you work hard and do well, opportunities will present themselves not every day and not always, but with enough frequency that the right solution is to stay very, very focused on the task that you have in front of you and do it – do it really, really well.
The second thing is that there is nothing like one’s reputation, the capacity for people to understand the character of who you are, and you only get to build that over time and every day. And so wherever you find yourself, you got to speak the truth even when sometimes it is not welcome, and it’s difficult.
If you do those couple of things, then – and then for me, keeping my faith – if you do those three things – that’s what I told them, I said tell the truth, work hard, keep your faith – the world will – the world will come present you with things that will be fulfilling for you and for your family.
MR CABRERA: Thank you. I know that our – that’s incredibly valuable advice for our students, and yet you still made turns in your career, right?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: So – with major – like you’re a soldier who said I want to go to —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: — law school, not an obvious choice. I want to go piece together a number of businesses in – Wichita, I think? That’s right?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I was really lucky in that sense, is that I was in a – I always – the – I had these chances, and I was prepared to take risk, right? So I – literally, I had a job practicing law and – one of them is here today – myself and my two other best friends in the whole world said let’s go start a business. We didn’t really know what it was going to be. And we decided we’d take that risk. We’d jump – we’d jump off on this. So you also have to be prepared when you see something where you have a passion to go pursue something, and you believe you have a skillset that – where you can generate value, not always financial value, but value, then you got to be prepared to go make the change and take the risk.
MR CABRERA: So – and then maybe back to your current job, obviously it’s an interesting – I think in one of your earlier speeches, you described that you were taking a pretty significant shift in – back to the China policy.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mm-hmm.
MR CABRERA: Now, you have this job. How likely are we to see some of these policies stay beyond January —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR CABRERA: — or are we going to see another 180 degree shift? I mean, some of your message is not necessarily partisan, right? I mean, you would have —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, yeah. I don’t think a single thing I said today reflected a partisan viewpoint, but rather relied on a dataset. And so I don’t think frankly what I said today was particularly controversial about those who are paying attention to the challenges that the Chinese Communist Party presents. And indeed, I’ve seen this on Capitol Hill in Washington and even in others in think tanks around the world. I think there is an increasing in awareness of this challenge.
So I’ll give you an example. I was in a NATO meeting with my foreign minister counterparts earlier last week. NATO grew out of the challenge of the Soviet Union and was very focused on confronting the Soviet Union and then Russia. Today NATO is challenged by cyber threats, base threats, disinformation threats from the Chinese Communist Party. And so we, the United States, had worked for and a long time to convince NATO that it needed to focus on this. And we spent an hour and a half of our roughly four hours of NATO talking about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party.
And I say that as an exemplar of the fact that I – I think this challenge is now widely recognized, and so I think whoever has the burden and the opportunity being president of the United States not just in February of 2021 but February of 2025 and ’29 and ’33, I think every one of those leaders will feel the challenge and recognize they have a duty and responsibility to confront this in a very real way.
I think our administration and President Trump should be given credit for having faced this. It would be the first administration to truly – to truly identify this. We did it in 2017 in what’s called – it’s an obscure document called the National Security Strategy, but we identified this challenge very clearly. And then we have begun to do what every institution does when there’s a challenge or an opportunity to move our resources and our focus to confront that primary challenge. I think this will be policy for the United States and indeed for Western democracies for an awfully long time.
MR CABRERA: Well, I think we’re pushing our luck with your time. You’ve been awfully generous. And what I can tell you is I really appreciate you and your service. I know how intense – I know how intense your job is because I know some of the people who work with you and run around the world chasing you. And regardless of how people feel about policy, I think we all need to agree that we appreciate public service, we appreciate what you’ve done for our country, and we thank you very much for spending some time with us today. Thank you so much, Secretary Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. No, thank you very much, sir.
MR CABRERA: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all.