Mike Pompeo was ‘snubbed’ by Beijing. Now it wants to show ‘a friendlier China’


China snubbed Washington’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo when he visited Beijing this month as tensions ran high over trade and the South China Sea – but some in Beijing did not agree with the handling of the visit and hope to use a security forum to show “a friendlier China”, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The US secretary of state was given frosty treatment when he visited Beijing on October 8 – part of an Asia tour that also included Japan and the two Koreas – when Chinese officials were openly blunt and accused the US of escalating the trade war, the person said.

Mike Pompeo and Wang Yi are said to have met for less than an hour on October 8, during the US secretary of state’s visit to Beijing. Photo: Reuters

“Pompeo hoped to meet President Xi Jinping, but he was rejected. Then he had a meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi that lasted less than an hour, and Wang spent nearly the whole meeting chiding the Trump administration for ‘ceaselessly escalating’ trade tensions,” the person said.

“Wang and his team didn’t even take Pompeo for a meal after the meeting … it was very disrespectful – China is known as a country that respects etiquette and ceremony,” the person said.

“Some of the Chinese defence officials and others didn’t agree with the way Wang handled the visit and they are hoping the Xiangshan Forum will be a chance to show their foreign counterparts a friendlier China,” the person said.

US Secretary Pompeo’s China visit marked by frosty talks and ‘fundamental disagreement’
In remarks made in front of the media when the pair met, Wang said the US had been increasing trade frictions with China and attacking the mutual trust between the two nations. The atmosphere reflected the deteriorating relations between the two sides – in addition to trade, they are also locking horns over security and the South China Sea, with Beijing accusing Washington of sending military aircraft and vessels to the disputed waters.

Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is expected to talk about China’s “peaceful political stance” in the region during a speech at the forum on Thursday, as Beijing seeks to reassure Washington and its Southeast Asian neighbours that it will not become a threat.

More than 500 delegates from the United States, Canada, Southeast Asian nations and Nato will gather for the forum. Politburo Standing Committee member Li Zhanshu also attended a welcome dinner on Wednesday.