Stories

Trump's new China strategy appears more contentious

The Trump administration has released 3 key strategy documents in the last month that reframe America's view of China and may indicate there's an emerging approach that's more contentious.

Why it matters: The idea of engagement has underpinned the U.S.-China relationship for decades. Now the U.S. government appears to have declared engagement has failed.

The more contentious approach can be seen via the National Security Strategy (NSS), the USTR annual report on China's WTO compliance, and the Pentagon's new National Defense Strategy (NDS).

Key China quotes from the NSS:

"For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and the use of surveillance. It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own."

From the NDS:

"The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers. It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions..."
"China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage. As China continues its economic and military ascendance, asserting power through an all-of-nation long-term strategy, it will continue to pursue a military modernization program that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future."

From the USTR report:

"[I]t seems clear that the United States erred in supporting China’s entry into the WTO on terms that have proven to be ineffective in securing China’s embrace of an open, market oriented trade regime..."

Go deeper: Dan Rosen, founder of the Rhodium Group, board member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and former Clinton White House official, has built his career on engagement with China. Earlier this week he wrote a remarkable essay examining "A Post-Engagement US-China Relationship?"