A highly centralised and non-transparent Chinese government which is aggressive in its military posture with its economic strength and treats intellectual property and religious minorities horribly, poses a far greater threat to the US than Russia, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
He also said that China presents a myriad of opportunities, but lots of challenges.
The world's two largest economies are engaged in a trade war. The US is due to impose punitive tariffs on USD 200 billion in Chinese goods on Monday, bringing the total to USD 250 billion, on top of separate duties on steel and aluminum from around the globe.
China has retaliated on USD 110 billion in goods, the majority of all its imports from the US.
"Russia, under Vladimir Putin, remains a bully. We need to push back and constrain them where we can. But longer term, if you're looking at the things that threaten American livelihoods, that put America truly at risk of its continued economic growth, China presents the far greater threat to the US," Pompeo told Fox News in an interview.
"This is a non-transparent government. It is still a very centralised government. It treats our intellectual property horribly, it treats its religious minorities horribly," he said.
In each of these cases, he said, the US has opportunities. This is what President Donald Trump has been doing with trade, to try and make it fair and reciprocal.
"What we're asking of China is to behave in a way that if they want to be a power, if they want to be on the global stage, they have to operate in a way that global leaders have for so often," he said.
Pompeo expressed his deep disappointment over top American companies compromising with their basics in order to continue with their business in China.
"It gets at the core problem that President Trump is trying to address, which is that China doesn't permit US investors to invest on the same terms that Chinese companies can invest here, joint ventures.
"The list is long of the non-reciprocal relationship. The President's trying to balance that. And when we get that right, when government gets that right, we can then force American companies to behave under that set of rules," he said.
Responding to a question on the allegation of Russian meddling into US elections, Pompeo said that Russia has been aggressive and tried to meddle in American election.
When the Trump Administration came to power, Pompeo said it found that China had advanced during the previous eight years dramatically throughout the South and East China Seas.
"I did have a chance to meet with some of the Philippine leadership today and share with them our concerns. I think they share them as well. They understand, as do all of the countries of Southeast Asia they'd much rather deal with a United States and not be a vassal state for any other country," he said.