October 27, 2017

Washington Has a Bad Case of China ADHD

As global attention fixes on the Trump administration’s North Korea and Iran policies, the White House is preparing for another consequential policy shift that’s gone almost unnoticed in comparison — this time on China. Reports suggest the Trump administration will soon adopt a more hard-edged strategy toward China’s unfair trade practices and pursuit of American technology, among other issues. In theory, this would represent a major departure from how the United States has approached China, now the world’s second-largest economy and military spender.

Yet the Trump administration’s ability to translate this new approach into sustained action remains in question. Multiple U.S. administrations have tried, and failed, to focus attention on a rising China.

George W. Bush’s national security team came into office determined to elevate China as a long-term strategic focus. The April 2001 collision of a Chinese fighter jet with a U.S. surveillance aircraft — and the tense standoff that followed — reinforced this perspective. By September 2001, the Pentagon was finalizing its Defense Strategy Review, which embraced great power competition with China.

Read the full op-ed in Foreign Policy.

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