Pompeo Wins Fans in China Despite Heightened Attacks by State Media

May 4, 2020 Updated: May 6, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has come under sustained attack from Chinese state media for his criticism of the Chinese regime’s handling of the CCP virus outbreak, but he is enjoying growing popularity among ordinary Chinese internet users.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reacted angrily on May 4 after Pompeo said that there was “enormous evidence” linking the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus to a state-owned virology lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started late last year.

“Evil Pompeo is wantonly spewing venom and fabricating lies,” said a commentary piece read out during the broadcaster’s main news bulletin.

In the past week, CCTV has repeatedly lambasted Pompeo for his criticisms of the CCP, calling him the “common enemy of mankind” and accused him of “spreading a political virus.”

Amid the increasingly frenzied attacks from CCP mouthpieces, however, the secretary of state is gaining popularity among some Chinese netizens.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news briefing at the State Department in Washington, on Feb. 25, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Fans Defy Censors

The state-sponsored campaign of vilification against Pompeo has had an impact on online speech, with many Chinese internet users parroting state propaganda.

But as many Chinese censors regularly hire trolls to push pro-CCP content, it is difficult to tell whether those comments are a realistic reflection of Chinese public opinion.

In an attempt to counter CCP propaganda without provoking censors, some internet users have uploaded Pompeo’s personal and family photographs onto social media platforms.

One popular photo shows Pompeo as a young cadet at the West Point military academy, from which he graduated first in his class in 1986.

Many comments below the photo praised him as a “handsome” and “high-achieving” young man.

Kitchen Photo Goes Viral

Another photo, which has gone viral on Chinese social media, shows Pompeo washing up in the kitchen, while his wife Susan sat at the kitchen table playing cards.

The photo was posted by Pompeo himself on his Twitter account on Christmas Eve last year. He was honoring his promise to help his wife in the kitchen over Christmas, he wrote.

It struck a chord among many Chinese, presumably because his action formed a stark contrast with that of CCP officials.

“Pompeo is clearly enjoying doing washing up! Looking at his smile, I can feel his happiness from the other side of the earth,” said one user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

“Don’t let your wife see this! US Secretary of State Pompeo has to do washing up when he comes home. And his wife is playing cards!” exclaimed another.

These images have prompted some netizens to reject the official condemnation of Pompeo. “The term ‘enemy of mankind’ seems to have become a compliment,” said an online comment.

Wang Zang, a Beijing-based poet, said the CCP’s attacks on Pompeo reminded him of the kind of treatment during the Cultural Revolution.

They are doing so because, he told Radio Free Asia, Pompeo’s criticisms of the Chinese regime has hit Beijing where it hurts.