The Nature of Trump’s China Policy: An Evolution of the US “Hedging Strategy” towards China (Published)
The United States has been continuously exploring the best strategy to cope with a rising China. Based on the “con-gagement” strategy of the Bush administration, the Obama administration gradually formed a “hedging strategy” against China, featuring “strong coordination and strong confrontation”. Since Donald Trump became the U.S. President, he has made a series of further adjustments to the U.S. policy towards China. As this article argues, these adjustments essentially do not mean the abandonment of the “hedging strategy”, but a “critical” inheritance of it as well as a new attempt in the gradual adjustment and evolution of the U.S. strategy against China. However, with the further narrowing of the gap between the two countries and growing distrust of the U.S. towards China, the Trump administration’s China strategy has gradually shifted to a new type of “hedging strategy” featuring “weak coordination and strong confrontation”, which demonstrates a tendency of evolving to a confrontational strategy and hence may lead to more downward pressure on the Sino-US relations. In the short run, the Trump administration does not yet have the external conditions and internal motivation for a total rupture with China. Considering the internal and external conditions of the United States and the intertwined interests of the two sides, the Sino-US relations may still be characterized by competition, rather than conflict. In the long run, how the U.S. strategy against China shall evolve depends not only on the U.S. side, but also on China’s attitudes and approaches in response. Indeed, China will play a more important role in shaping the Sino-US relations than ever before.