The Elements of the China Challenge: Reading the Trump Administration’s China Policy Testament
Keywords:US-China relations, ideology, Cold War, Central and Eastern Europe, China’s foreign policy
Between 2017 and 2021 Donald Trump’s administration published over a dozen strategic documents on China among which The Elements of the China Challenge seems to stand out as it outlines a longer perspective and sketches a wider framework for US policy towards China. This paper attempts to examine the major assumptions of The Elements, arguing that by putting forward an anti-imperialist rhetoric, the American policy-makers want to emphasize the systemic differences with China, the importance of which have long been underplayed by Western policy-makers who have given precedence to economic considerations. However, the analysis also gives weight to the argument that the strong ideological appeal in The Elements is also intended to mobilize the American allies, anchor them to the leader of the “free world,” and reduce their tendencies to cooperate with China, including in 5G technology as in the case of Central and Eastern Europe.
Bachulska A., “The Consequences of Sino-American Rivalry for Third Countries: Poland and the 5G Dilemma”, TheAsiaDialogue.com, 11 November 2019, at https://theasiadialogue.com/2019/11/11/the-consequences-of-sino-american-rivalry-for-third-countries-polandand-the-5g-dilemma/.
Chmielewski P., Dyplomacja sowiecka w Radzie Bezpieczeństwa ONZ wobec zadań utrzymania pokoju i bezpieczeństwa międzynarodowego u progu zimnej wojny [The Soviet diplomacy in the UN Security Council and the goal of maintaining international peace and security on the brink of the Cold War], vol. 1, Łódź 2005.
“‘Fort Trump’ coraz bliżej?” [Is “Fort Trump” getting closer?], Wiadomości TVP, 13 November 2018, at https://wiadomosci.tvp.pl/39936650/fort-trump-coraz-blizej.
Gaddis J.L., We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History, Oxford 1998.
Geer T., Assessing the Trump China Strategy: The Key Documents, The Scholar’s stage [blog], 18 January 2021, at https://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2021/01/assessing-trump-chinastrategy-key.html.
George F. Kennan’s “Long Telegram” at 75: Appraising a Critical Cold War Document, Wilson Center, 22 February 2021, at https://www.wilsoncenter.org/video/george-f-kennanslong-telegram-75-appraising-critical-cold-war-document.
Gries P., China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy, Stanford 2004.
Kowalski B., “China’s Mask Diplomacy in Europe: Seeking Foreign Gratitude and Domestic Stability”, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, vol. 5 (2021), https://doi.org/10.1177/18681026211007147.
Kramer M., “Ideology and the Cold War”, Review of International Studies, vol. 25 (1999), https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210599005392.
Ye M., “Wolf Warriors Blow Hot Before Cooling Down”, Global Asia, vol. 15, no. 3 (2020).
Mitchell W.A., Winning the Competition for Influence in Central and Eastern Europe, at https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/commentary/transcript/winning-the-competition-for-influencein-central-and-eastern-europe-us-assistant-secretary-of-state-a-wess-mitchell/.
Mitter R., Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford 2016, https://doi.org/10.1093/actrade/9780198753704.001.0001.
Mitter R., Johnson E., What the West Gets Wrong About China, at https://hbr.org/2021/05/what-the-west-gets-wrong-about-china.
Naughton B., Tsai K.S. (eds.), State Capitalism, Institutional Adaptation, and the Chinese Miracle.
Comparative Perspectives in Business History, Cambridge 2015, https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139962858.
“Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Hamburg: Poland is both pro-American and pro-European”, Premier.gov.pl, at https://archiwum.premier.gov.pl/en/news/news/prime-minister-mateusz-morawiecki-in-hamburg-poland-is-both-pro-american-and-pro-european.html.
Silver L., Devlin K., Huang Ch., Unfavorable Views of China Reach Historic Highs in Many Countries, at https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/10/06/unfavorable-views-ofchina-reach-historic-highs-in-many-countries/.
The Elements of the China Challenge, The Policy Planning Staff, U.S. Office of the Secretary of State, Washington 2020, at https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/20-02832-Elements-of-China-Challenge-508.pdf.
Thomas N., Matters of Record: Relitigating Engagement with China, at https://macropolo.org/analysis/china-us-engagement-policy.
Mao T., “People of the World, Unite and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs”, Peking Review, 23 May 1970.
Vice President Mike Pence’s Remarks on the Administration’s Policy Towards China, Hudson Institute, 4 October 2018, at https://www.hudson.org/events/1610-vice-president-mike-pences-remarks-on-the-administration-s-policy-towards-china102018.
“‘Wu yan lianmeng’ fabu she Gang lianhe shengming, waijiaobu huiying” [“The Five Eyes Alliance” issued a joint statement concerning Hong Kong, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded], People.cn, 19 November 2020, at http://world.people.com.cn/n1/2020/1119/c1002-31937509.html.
Ge Z., Hewei “Zhongguo”? Jiangyu, Minzu, Wenhua yu Lishi [What is “China”? Territory, Nation, Culture and History], Hong Kong 2014.
How to Cite
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.