Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quietly planning a trip to Hawaii to meet with Chinese government officials. If it happens, the encounter would come at a moment of high tension.
The relationship between the U.S. and China is at a low ebb; Trump administration officials, led by Pompeo, have lambasted the country for its opacity and deception regarding the early spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which started in China and has since claimed more than 413,000 lives worldwide. China has been equally critical of Pompeo, with state-owned media organs openly mocking America’s top diplomat in harsh and often personal terms.
President Donald Trump has made standing up to China a central pillar of his re-election campaign — an effort that has the added benefit of deflecting blame from the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
But while Trump sees political value in criticizing Beijing, he also prioritizes economic recovery in the months leading up to the 2020 reelection. So the close economic ties between the two powers make it arguably the United States’ most complicated and consequential bilateral relationship––especially given concerns within the administration that China will not fulfill commitments it made in the first phase of a trade deal with the U.