U.S. President Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping during the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

commentary

(The National Interest)

September 23, 2019

How Not to Confront China

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping during the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

by Ali Wyne and James Dobbins

President Donald Trump issued a bold declaration late last month: “We don't need China and, frankly, would be better off without them.”

Most U.S. observers agree that Washington needed to recalibrate its policy towards Beijing. The latter has grown more authoritarian as it has become more prosperous, defying the longstanding Western hope that the adoption of market-oriented reforms would produce steps toward political liberalization. China's militarization of the South China Sea and its predatory trade practices have also helped to persuade even many of President Trump's detractors that he has spurred an essential debate on U.S. policy towards China.

Yet, having concluded that China is America's foremost challenger, his administration is confronting it in a manner that may be unlikely to advance U.S. competitiveness or enlist much support abroad.

Consider five points.

First, the administration is undercutting America's ability to form a coalition that can manage China's resurgence. It has expressed little interest in continuing negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union (EU) and has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), dovetailing with the president's oft-expressed view that America's friends treat it more poorly than its competitors. Even before it imposed its first tranche of tariffs on China, in July 2018, the administration had penalized exports from Canada, the EU, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea.…

The remainder of this commentary is available at nationalinterest.org.


Ali Wyne is a policy analyst and James Dobbins is a senior fellow at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

This commentary originally appeared on The National Interest on September 22, 2019. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.