The deterioration of U.S.-China relations was further solidified by an important speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 23. Pompeo’s speech will accelerate the sense that a “new cold war” is underway between China and the United States because it seems to demand the overthrow of the Chinese Communist Party as a prerequisite for peace. The speech also asks fellow democracies to join with Washington in demanding changes in China’s behavior, despite strains in those partnerships that have grown under the Trump administration.

Pompeo’s remarks came after a recent cascade of U.S. signals of hostility toward the Chinese government. Since the beginning of the administration of President Donald Trump in 2017, Beijing has been imploring Washington to put aside bilateral differences and re-commit to the economic cooperation and transfer of U.S. technological expertise that have been vital to China’s rapid accumulation of wealth.

In 2020, however, hopes for an end to the U.S.-China “trade war” gave way to deepening acrimony. The COVID-19 pandemic led to both countries blaming each other for mismanaging the disease. Washington increased its support for Taiwan, strongly condemned Beijing’s move to roll back Hong Kong’s political autonomy, and unambiguously affirmed the 2016 international legal judgment that disavowed China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Then on July 21, the U.S. government ordered Beijing to evacuate its consulate in Houston within 72 hours.