October 12, 2020

Beijing Believes Trump Is Accelerating American Decline

Public intelligence assessments of China’s 2020 election preferences only tell half the story.

By ​Rush Doshi

In August, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence claimed publicly that China “prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection.” But these assessments tell only half the story, and Chinese open sources suggest the need for a more nuanced view.

While Chinese leaders may wish for a reprieve from President Donald Trump’s recent aggressiveness, they also believe that he has weakened American power and accelerated American decline. It is this latter judgement that is more consequential, encouraging Beijing to challenge Washington not only in Asia but globally, too.

When China’s perception of American strength shifts, its strategy generally changes.

As I argue in my forthcoming book The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order, Chinese leaders have constantly assessed and reassessed American power. Since the end of the Cold War, each leader has publicly anchored Chinese grand strategy to concepts like “multipolarity” and “the international balance of forces” that are essentially polite euphemisms for the relative balance between Chinese and American power. When China’s perception of American strength shifts, its strategy generally changes.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

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