“Distrust and verify.”

This is the startling line from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Thursday that will long resonate within national security circles of administrations of both parties.

“President [Ronald] Reagan said that he dealt with the Soviet Union on the basis of ‘trust but verify.’ When it comes to CCP, I say we must distrust and verify.”

Pompeo had just laid a wreath at the gravesite of Richard M. Nixon after touring the museum and library that honors the former president. Then, speaking to a few hundred socially distanced guests near Nixon’s boyhood home, Pompeo announced a bold new chapter in the United States’ relationship with the People’s Republic of China.

Almost 50 years after Nixon dispatched his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, on a secret mission to Beijing, Pompeo brought down the curtain on the blind hope that China would simply evolve into a western-style democracy.

“This isn’t about containment,” Pompeo declared on Thursday. “Don’t buy that. It’s about a complex new challenge that we’ve never faced before. The U.S.S.R. was closed off from the free world. Communist China is already within our borders.”

There was an urgency to Pompeo’s message: “Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because our founding principles give us that opportunity.”

The urgency comes because of the age of artificial intelligence in which we live. Click by click, app by app, TikTok by TikTok, the CCP races to achieve domination and to exploit its leverage. Its immense market of 1.4 billion consumers dazzles the eyes of free-market companies seeking customers.

Pompeo warned bluntly that this is not just a mirage, but a trap. “We must admit a hard truth that should guide us in the years and decades to come, that if we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done.”

Pompeo then named companies that had their priorities backward. “Marriott, American Airlines, Delta, United,” Pompeo said, “all removed references to Taiwan from their corporate websites, so as not to anger Beijing.”

“Hollywood, not too far from here,” Pompeo continued, “the epicenter of American creative freedom and self-appointed arbiters of social justice, self-censors even the most mildly unfavorable reference to China.”

All of this must end, Pompeo demanded, and then called for an extended era of relentless, unsparing candor about the People’s Republic of China in the hope of transforming that communist country. Pompeo repeated that the CCP remains a completely communist regime.

Full disclosure: I am the president of the Richard Nixon Foundation and accompanied the secretary on his visit. That said, I believe it is fair to say that this was a speech that will be seen as pivotal by foreign policy historians for years to come.

It is a speech that ought to be read by every American and especially by every American CEO. Leaders of both parties should applaud and embrace this commitment to candor. Companies and industries that cower from this candor should not be allowed to dodge responsibilities for the human rights abuses they enable. Pompeo said the global coronavirus pandemic is all the evidence the world needs to understand that the CCP is not a partner in global prosperity and progress.

Pompeo did nothing but speak candidly on Thursday. The time for candor by everyone else about every aspect of the CCP is at hand.

Read more: