The US political community has produced no shortage of strategies to compete with China. Increasingly frustrated that the longstanding US policy of engagement has not made Beijing a “responsible stakeholder”, the Trump administration changed the pace together with a non-partisan cross-section of Washington’s political community. Their competitive strategies are ready to impose costs on Beijing, curtail economic engagement and tolerate greater bilateral friction in order to push China back and defend US interests more aggressively. But, as is often emphasized, competition is not an end in itself. Then what do these competitive strategies want to achieve?
Washington's goals in shaping China's international behavior remain largely unchanged, even if the means to achieve them have shifted. This is seldom recognized, partly because it does not go well with the tales of hawks or pigeons about China. In addition to deterring Chinese aggression and maintaining its strategic position in the region, the United States is still trying to make China a rule-compliant and system-sustaining member of the international community. In other words, attempts are still being made to make China a “responsible stakeholder”, as Robert Zoellick famously called for 15 years ago. Those who suggest that the responsible stakeholder approach is "dead" exaggerate how much has changed for much of Washington.
However, today's vision of China as a responsible stakeholder is less ambitious. Nobody expects Beijing to stop doing business with unsavory regimes altogether, and Washington, for its part, appears motivated to cultivate a less economically interdependent relationship. However, as Zoellick pointed out, Washington continues to seek to shape China into a state that “not only conforms to international rules” but “works with us to maintain the international system” and “helps meet the challenges tackling the new “century.” As long as transforming China into a responsible stakeholder remains a US goal, the US would do well not only to recognize it, but to make China and the world known.
As much as the Trump administration's policies have put US-China relations on a confrontational path, the May 2020 White Paper on Competition with China is so clear that it "does not seek to curb China's development." Rather, China should be forced to “adhere to the norms for responsible government behavior”. The norms cited most frequently by the government include those that Zoellick urged China to adhere to in 2005 – such as respecting the terms of international agreements, accepting transparency and accountability, and resolving its territorial disputes peacefully.
In line with its efforts during its first three years in office, the government continues to seek China's assistance in achieving a denuclearized Korean peninsula, the main international challenge that Zoellick urged China to address. In addition to its competitive and often inflammatory language (discussed below), the Trump White House states that the United States "is ready to welcome China's positive contributions" and hopes that the United States and China will "work together in some way." can that benefit peace ". Stability and prosperity in the world. "
Perhaps the biggest change in administrative objectives has been in the economic field. The government has sought to reduce US reliance on supply chains in China and limit China's involvement in sensitive sectors of the US economy and those of its allies. While this represents a major change in US policy, it was clear to the administration that their "approach is not to exclude China". Rather, it aims to put an end to "unfair Chinese trade practices" and forcing Beijing to "protect intellectual property" while "rebalancing US-China economic ties." These were all goals that Zoellick had formulated in 2005.
In pursuing these and other goals, the administration has adopted the tactic of reciprocity, the use of which is now supported by both parties. By creating the appropriate momentum, the reciprocity aims to encourage China to dismantle trade and investment barriers, dismantle state subsidies, lift visa restrictions for foreign journalists, and give US diplomats better access to Chinese society. The reciprocity aims to force Beijing to comply with international rules and norms by punishing it for non-compliance.
If the Trump administration has largely maintained its goal of making China a responsible stakeholder, senior officials' use of inflammatory ideological rhetoric has obscured and collaborated with that fact. In a high profile speech in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the Chinese Communist Party was threatening the world with a "new tyranny," suggested that the party's rule in China was illegal, and implied that the United States must work to To change China's domestic political system. US hopes for political liberalization in China have long been uneasy, along with the reassuring message of welcoming China's rise as a responsible stakeholder. However, it is difficult to see how such rhetoric does not completely undermine US declarations that its goals are limited to changing Beijing's behavior and that it seeks a partnership with China to maintain the international system. The result was a confused – if not incoherent – formulation of US-China policy.
While most of Washington's broader political community has avoided such provocative rhetoric, it shares the government's goal of making China a responsible stakeholder. President-elect Joe Biden has said he would confront Beijing by working with US allies to "shape traffic rules" that "China cannot afford to ignore them." Its aim is not to reduce China's access to the international system, but to ensure that Beijing stays involved and abides by the rules. He has also said that he will maintain the Trump administration's tariffs on Chinese goods and use them as "levers" to achieve the same economic goals that Trump wanted to achieve.
Biden has called for a partnership with China to address "climate change, non-proliferation and global health security," just as Zoellick Beijing wanted to work with the United States on "energy conservation and efficiency" and fight the "proliferation of mass weapons" destruction, Poverty and (and) disease. The president-elect is also trying to work with Beijing in a "coordinated campaign … to advance our common goal of a denuclearized North Korea." Jake Sullivan, the new national security advisor, and Kurt Campbell, a senior Biden advisor, have also spoken out in favor of a reciprocity to force Beijing to "comply with trade rules" and China as an "essential partner" in tackling a number of the greatest transnational challenges to consider.
With a few exceptions, proposals from across the political spectrum continue to seek to make China a responsible stakeholder. A competitive strategy developed by analysts at a left-wing Washington think tank seeks China to leverage its "growing capabilities to meet global challenges" and encourage Beijing to "play an increasingly active role in shaping global institutions, norms and outcomes ". To this end, they encourage Washington "to create more space within the international governance system for China". Two scientists from a right-wing think tank propose putting pressure on the Chinese Communist Party, which is so great that it either "changes its goals or loses power." However, they point out that Washington should "leave the door open" for China to become a responsible stakeholder. This is a departure from the pressure they are proposing to apply, and implies that the changes they are seeking to make in China's goals reflect those of a responsible interest group.
When the White House says it does not seek a "definite final state for China" and others suggest that Washington should not seek a "final state" in competition with Beijing, they may be referring to China's domestic political system. Much of Washington, however, is aiming for a certain end state for China: They are trying to turn it into a responsible stakeholder. As long as this remains a de facto US goal, Washington should embrace it and broadcast it.
High-ranking Chinese heads of state and government themselves are now publicly declaring what they would only say privately and via state media for a long time: The United States does not welcome the rise of China and is instead trying to contain it. It will be difficult to convince Beijing otherwise, but since such a belief is sure to exacerbate bilateral competition and ruin any opportunity to make Beijing a responsible stakeholder, it would be foolish if Washington doesn't make every effort to do so to counteract.
In that regard, it is far less convincing to deny that the United States is trying to contain China than to offer Beijing the positive and familiar vision of a responsible stakeholder that will compel Chinese leaders to think about US-China's ongoing aspirations -Thinking about politics. Washington should also note that Beijing does not have to take its word for it: it should encourage Beijing to test its commitment to reciprocity by positively changing its behavior in a way that requires US mutual action.
The demand for a responsible stakeholder in China has always been an ambitious and principled goal – and, as always, it can fail. Wisdom suggests that Washington should try to maximize the likelihood of success while minimizing the cost and risk of failure. This does not require unilateral concessions or trust in the miraculous, socializing power of participation in the international system. The United States must adhere closely to the logic of reciprocity, changing the mix and order of the carrots and whips that it presents to Beijing to encourage constructive behavior and punish the contrary. Also, the United States must abandon the maximalist rhetoric of democratizing China and instead focus on forcing Beijing to honor its commitments to treat its citizens with humility.
While Beijing never comes around, the declaration that the US continues to seek to make China a responsible stakeholder is a valuable message to partners around the world. This will help reassure the many states that are increasingly concerned about becoming embroiled in a vortex of deteriorating US-China relations that is far from moving towards conflict with China or regime change in Beijing. The United States would like to welcome him to the community of responsible nations. Additionally, by publicly accepting the responsible stakeholders' goal, Washington can help expose the often-proclaimed Chinese refrain that the United States wants to wage a new Cold War with China, a message Beijing is using to make itself a geopolitical victim present and alienate yourself from partners from Washington.
Needless to say, no element of US strategy towards China is more important than its goals. If US policymakers fail to acknowledge their attempt to make China a responsible stakeholder despite increasing competition with Beijing and deteriorating relations, they risk operating with an incomplete picture of what the winning is like. And if they can't compulsorily express their goals to Beijing and the world, they are almost certainly ineffective in competing.