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SEPTEMBER 2020

U.S. Strategic Approach Against China

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U.S. Strategic Approach Against China

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On May 20th, 2020, in accordance with the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, the Trump administration delivered a report, “U.S. Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China” to members of the US Congress.

The entire report is available online on the White House website. [pdf]

The report itself begins on a rather negative note, that after 40 years of attempts to deepen engagement which would in turn lead to economic and political opening in the People’s Republic of China, no such thing has happened.

According to the report, China has failed in emerging as “a constructive and responsible global stakeholder, with a more open society.”

“More than 40 years later, it has become evident that this approach underestimated the will of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to constrain the scope of economic and political reform in China. Over the past two decades, reforms have slowed, stalled, or reversed. The PRC’s rapid economic development and increased engagement with the world did not lead to convergence with the citizen-centric, free and open order as the United States had hoped. The CCP has chosen instead to exploit the free and open rules-based order and attempt to reshape the international system in its favor. Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology. The CCP’s expanding use of economic, political, and military power to compel acquiescence from nation states harms vital American interests and undermines the sovereignty and dignity of countries and individuals around the world.”

The US strategy is such that it doesn’t aim to stop a specific end-goal for China being achieved, but rather to realize Washington’s own interests, through the four pillars set out in the 2017 National Security Strategy:

  1. Protect the American people, homeland, and way of life;
  2. Promote American prosperity;
  3. Preserve peace through strength;
  4. Advance American influence.

The report does not attempt to detail the comprehensive range of actions and policy initiatives the Administration is carrying out across the globe as part of our strategic competition. Rather, this report focuses on the implementation of the NSS as it applies most directly to China.

The reports sets out 3 key challenges that China poses to the US interests:

  1. Economic challenges: Beijing’s poor record of following through on economic reform commitments and its extensive use of state-driven protectionist policies and practices harm United States companies and workers, distort global markets, violate international norms, and pollute the environment. When the PRC acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, Beijing agreed to embrace the WTO’s open market-oriented approach and embed these principles in its trading system and institutions. WTO members expected China to continue on its path of economic reform and transform itself into a market-oriented economy and trade regime.
  2. Challenges of US values: The CCP promotes globally a value proposition that challenges the bedrock American belief in the unalienable right of every person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Under the current generation of leadership, the CCP has accelerated its efforts to portray its governance system as functioning better than those of what it refers to as “developed, western countries.” Beijing is clear that it sees itself as engaged in an ideological competition with the West. In 2013, General Secretary Xi called on the CCP to prepare for a “long-term period of cooperation and conflict” between two competing systems and declared that “capitalism is bound to die out and socialism is bound to win.” In addition, it alleges that the Chinese government often forces its nationals to carry out malign activities that go against the US and other Western states’ values;
  3. Security Challenges: As China has grown in strength, so has the willingness and capacity of the CCP to employ intimidation and coercion in its attempts to eliminate perceived threats to its interests and advance its strategic objectives globally. Beijing’s actions belie Chinese leaders’ proclamations that they oppose the threat or use of force, do not intervene in other countries’ internal affairs, or are committed to resolving disputes through peaceful dialogue. Beijing contradicts its rhetoric and flouts its commitments to its neighbors by engaging in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities in the Yellow Sea, the East and South China Seas, the Taiwan Strait, and Sino-Indian border areas.

In order to tackle these challenges, the US needs to undertake a specific approach, according to the National Security Strategy it has to “rethink the policies of the past two decades – policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false. Rival actors use propaganda and other means to try to discredit democracy. They advance anti-Western views and spread false information to create divisions among ourselves, our allies, and our partners.”

The United States rejects CCP attempts at false equivalency between rule-of-law and rule-by-law; between counterterrorism and oppression; between representative governance and autocracy; and between market-based competition and state-directed mercantilism. The United States will continue to challenge Beijing’s propaganda and false narratives that distort the truth and attempt to demean American values and ideals.

Essentially, everything will be implemented in four directions:

  1. Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life;
  2. Promote American Prosperity;
  3. Preserve Peace Through Strength;
  4. Advance American Influence.

These are very self-explanatory, and almost entirely focused on forwarding US’ interests at any cost, and takes into account only that, allied interests are unmentioned. It advertises joint projects with other countries such as Australia and Japan, only so far as they allow it to keep the leading position in them and set out the course.

The conclusion of the report is the following:

“The Administration’s approach to the PRC reflects a fundamental reevaluation of how the United States understands and responds to the leaders of the world’s most populous country and second largest national economy. The United States recognizes the long-term strategic competition between our two systems. Through a whole-of-government approach and guided by a return to principled realism, as articulated by the NSS, the United States Government will continue to protect American interests and advance American influence. At the same time, we remain open to constructive, results-oriented engagement and cooperation from China where our interests align. We continue to engage with PRC leaders in a respectful yet clear-eyed manner, challenging Beijing to uphold its commitments.”

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