Wu Xinbo:The Trump Administration’s Restructuring of China-US Relations: Ambitions and Limitations
26 Apr., 2021  |  Source:China International Studies  |  Hits:2015

Compared to previous US administrations, the Trump administration, with its mission to fundamentally restructure China-US relations and reset the premise, objective, framework, connotations, and means of US policy toward China, has produced the most disruptive effect on China-US relations in the post-Cold War era. Against the backdrop of China-US great-power competitive dynamics, the adjustment of US policy toward China is somewhat inevitable, but it also has distinctive features brought by President Trump and his team. In turn, Trump's restructuring of China-US relations is unavoidably subject to a range of internal and external restraints. This article examines Trump's restructuring of China-US relations and its consequences, analyzes the main factors constraining his China policy, and looks at US policy toward China in the near to medium term.

Trump's Restructuring of China-US Relations

Constraints of Trump's Restructuring of China-US Relations

Future Policy Directions

Conclusion:After one year of careful planning and two years of active implementation,the Trump administration’s intentions, goals, and approaches of reshaping China-US relations have been clearly presented to the world. In general, the US wants to put competition first with economic and trade issues as a breakthrough to craft a China policy that effectively limits China’s growth and retards its rise while advancing US interests. The phase-one China-US trade agreement signifies a gain for the US in terms of economic and trade interests. Technological restrictions on China have brought certain difficulties to the development of Chinese enterprises, but US efforts to restructure the relationship are far less smooth than expected, and there is considerable uncertainty about the future course. The fundamental problem for the US is that its policy goals are irrational and it has inadequate resources and means to advance them. 

Against the backdrop of profound changes in the world situation and China-US power configuration, strategic competition between the two countries will be on the rise in the long term and the transformation of their relations is inevitable. The Trump administration’s attempts to reshape China-US relations are just the beginning of a long-term game that will see the two countries define the boundaries of competition, the distribution of interests, and the shape of their relationship through sustained and intense interactions. For China, it is the basic philosophy of its current and future policy toward the US to take a steady growth in strength as a support, a reasonable exchange of interests as a starting point, and a foreign policy appropriate to the trend of the times as a tool, and thus to commit itself to shaping a China-US relationship featuring healthy competition and mutual benefits.

(The author is Dean of the Institute of International Studies, and Director of the Center for American Studies,Fudan University)