Analysis & Opinions - USA Today

‘Tough on China’ is Not a Strategy. Trump is Scrapping Tools that Keep Us Safe and Strong

| Aug. 27, 2020

A misguided China approach like Trump's could lead us to discard our aces of alliances and global institutions or to severely restrict immigration.

Relations with China are now at their lowest point in nearly 50 years. Some blame this on President Donald Trump, but he is more like a man who poured gasoline on a fire. Chinese leaders built the fire with their actions such as mercantilist manipulation of the trading system, theft and coercive transfer of intellectual property, and militarization of artificially constructed islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. reaction has been bipartisan, but thus far with little articulation of a strategy.

Pushing back is useful but not a strategy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Republican National Convention that Trump had "pulled back the curtain on the predatory aggression of the Chinese Communist Party," and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley asserted that Trump is "tough on China."

But demanding that China buy more American goods without solving the structural issues is not a strategy. Nor is talking about the "China virus" while withdrawing from the World Health Organization and leaving the field open for China. And recent administration speeches that squeeze China into a Cold War ideological framework misrepresent the real strategic challenge we face....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Nye, Joseph S. Jr.“‘Tough on China’ is Not a Strategy. Trump is Scrapping Tools that Keep Us Safe and Strong.” USA Today, August 27, 2020.