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Pompeo says Chinese threat ‘inside the gates’ amid rising fears about risk to US data, economic security

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the threat from the Chinese Communist Party is “inside the gates” of the United States, and he backed strong language from FBI Director Christopher Wray about the Beijing threat and warned of the risks to privacy from Chinese control of social media apps such as TikTok.

“It’s inside the gates, that’s how I describe the threat from the CCP,” Pompeo told Fox News Digital in an interview this week. “This isn’t something in Beijing or Shanghai or even Hong Kong. It’s in Des Moines and Phoenix and Tallahassee.

“And it is a real challenge for every American citizen who is confronted by a Chinese Communist Party that will stop at nothing to undermine the very way of life we have here in America and in the West.”

Pompeo, who served as a U.S. congressman, a CIA director and as the nation’s highest-ranking diplomat, tweeted earlier this week that TikTok “is in the grip of the Chinese Communist Party.” 

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The Trump administration moved to ban Chinese-owned apps like TikTok but was limited by federal courts. The Biden administration revoked the executive orders. But, this week, lawmakers from both parties on the Senate Intelligence Committee called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a BuzzFeed News report that U.S. private data has been accessed in China. 

TikTok has released a statement outlining how it is changing the storage location of U.S. data to fully pivot to cloud servers in the U.S. 

Speaking to Fox, Pompeo said he regrets that the administration wasn’t able to do more to crack down on Chinese social media influence.

“There was so much left undone, so much work that remained,” Pompeo said. “And, by the time we left, there’s no doubt I wish we’d had additional hours, additional days, additional months to continue to deliver for the American people on this really important work.”

But he warned American parents that there are significant dangers in allowing their children to have such apps on their devices.

“When it comes to TikTok — and I would say Chinese social media tools in particular — every American, every parent whose kid is on TikTok, should be mindful that their child is operating on a social network run by the Chinese Communist Party, accessed by the Chinese Communist Party, and on which the Chinese Communist Party is collecting information about their children, about their children’s friends, about the networks their child is part of. 

“They’re collecting facial recognition, all kinds of things about their kids and will use that in whatever way benefits them at whatever time it benefits them.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing March 2, 2021.

“So I always tell parents, ‘You are much better off if your child is out playing stickball in the street than watching TikTok on his handheld,’” he added.

Pompeo’s remarks come as FBI Director Wray, with whom Pompeo worked in the Trump administration, has been sounding the alarm on the Chinese threat to U.S. national security.

In London this week, Wray described a “complex, enduring and pervasive danger” from China to the U.S. and its allies and called the Chinese government “the biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security.”

Pompeo said he was heartened by Wray’s words and believes Wray is likely “frustrated” by moves by the Biden administration to back away from some of the efforts undertaken by the Trump administration on China. He said the Biden administration must back up the strong rhetoric with action.

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“It’s good rhetoric and, in the end, they’re going to have to deliver. And whether that’s against TikTok or against the Chinese theft of intellectual property here in the United States or the espionage and propaganda that the Chinese are doing here at home that impacts every family all across America, I hope the Biden administration will take this seriously and not only speak about it, but prosecute those who are violating U.S. law and make sure that the Chinese Communist Party understands that this is unacceptable behavior and imposed real costs on them to deter them,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo also believes the United Kingdom, where Wray spoke, is coming around to the threat China poses. He said his initial efforts to warn against the national security risks of China and technology company Huawei to the U.K.’s 5G networks were met with “enormous resistance” by the British.

“And yet the work that I did, the work that our teams did to educate them about this threat, I think yielded what you saw from the head of MI5, the British federal law enforcement agency,” Pompeo said. “You saw the head of that organization for the first time talk about how Britain and Britons are at risk as well. I’m happy about that. I hope they’ll take serious actions.”

In terms of combating the Chinese threat itself, particularly in relation to American industrial policy, Pompeo said he prefers to think about it in terms of a national security policy and “driving into our economy a set of understandings about those behaviors that are national security acceptable and those that are national security prohibited.”

“So we began to put Chinese tools, cyber tools and the like, on export bans, all the components. We began to help America reestablish the capacity to manufacture semiconductors here,” he said. “You could call that industrial policy, I suppose, but what we were focused on wasn’t doing this for the sake purely of our economy, but rather to protect the things that mattered most — the jobs and well-being of the American people and the safety of our families.

Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, D.C., March 5, 2020. 

“And so we were driving into our trade system, our currency system, our security system, the set of understandings about what China is actually engaged in and beginning to confront in a real way, which is almost always, in the first instance, economic.”

He shared the urgency that Wray expressed in the threat from Beijing, warning, “We’ve got to get it right.”

 

“We need to protect the things that matter most to America. Protect American jobs, hundreds of millions of which over the course of the last 30 years have been stolen from the West. We know how to do this. We know the risks. We have identified them,” he said. 

“It’s now time to take the serious actions that will actually confront them. And, over time, perhaps not with Xi Jinping, who is set on global hegemony, but over time, I’m convinced that the people of China will understand this isn’t how nations, certainly great nations, exist.”

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