Over a period of a little more than a month, the U.S. has gone from a mixture of competition and cooperation with China to direct confrontation. This confrontation has also focused largely on the civil level – more specifically on ideology, economics, industrial espionage, cyberattacks on civil networks and databases, and disinformation campaigns.
Top Administration officials have given five major speeches which assert that China can no longer be treated as a state evolving towards a more liberal power that will pursue security and economic objectives on terms the U.S. and other states can accept. These speeches assert that China has become an authoritarian state that is driven by a Communist ideology, is seeking to become the world’s dominant power, and is using methods of competition that are illegal and violate international norms.
Each speech addressed key areas of Chinese competition that the speaker felt violated international norms and legitimate forms of competition, and in doing so, threatened the U.S. and its allies. Each made it clear that China had evolved into an increasing threat.
This analysis provides the key excerpts from each speech. It traces the full set of arguments advanced by the top officials of the United States government. It highlights each of the specific examples which cite Chinese behavior that threaten the U.S. and other states – and also serves as a reference for what could be the most important shifts in U.S. policy towards China and its relations with the United States and the world since President Nixon’s opening to China in 1971-1972.
At the same time, the analysis that follows shows these speeches raise five critical issues for U.S. politics, strategy, and action in dealing with China:
Is this view of China correct, and does it offer the best option for dealing with China in the future?
Is this view of China one that has bipartisan support in the U.S. and will endure beyond the coming election?
The current U.S. national strategy addresses both China and Russia as major competitors, as well as far less serious threats from nations like Iran and North Korea. What is the U.S. position on Russia?
What changes are required in U.S. strategy and to what extent can the U.S. create global support for its position?
How does the U.S. build domestic and international support for such a position and show that its stance is valid?
In each case, it is clear that these speeches raise critical challenges, but they do not provide workable answers to any of these questions.
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