On May 20, 2020, the Administration issued the “United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China.” The strategy document explains that the Chinese government has constrained and reversed reforms in China and that its expanding use of economic, political, and military power is harmful to American interests. The Administration thus outlines a “competitive approach,” reflecting a “fundamental reevaluation” of how the United States understands and responds to China.
The Strategic Approach outlines economic challenges, challenges to values, and security challenges posed to U.S. interests. With regard to economic challenges, the document notes China’s “extensive use of state-driven protectionist policies and practices,” which harm U.S. companies, distort global markets, violate international norms, and pollute the environment. The government explains USTR’s Section 301 findings regarding technology transfer and intellectual property concerns. The report also details China’s One Belt One Road initiative, through which China is expanding the use of Chinese industrial standards in key technology sectors, in an effort to strengthen Chinese companies’ position in the global marketplace at the expense of non-Chinese firms.
The policy document describes the approach to dealing with the challenges posed by China, “rethink[ing] the policies of the past two decades.” While the U.S. government recognizes that the Chinese people have agency over China’s actions, the United States also “does not and will not accommodate Beijing’s actions that weaken a free, open, and rules-based international order” and “responds to the PRC’s actions rather than its stated commitments.” The document states that the United States acknowledges and responds in kind to Beijing’s transactional approach with incentives and costs, or credible threats thereof. “The United States will increase public pressure on” China and take action to protect U.S. interests by “leveraging proportional costs when necessary.”
The report discusses steps being taken to advance this China strategy, including in part: the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuting Chinese trade secrets theft and hacking; efforts to educate the American public, including Chinese students, on the Chinese government agenda; increasing the authority of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), to prevent Chinese companies from exploiting access to U.S. innovation through minority investments; and protecting consumers from counterfeit and substandard products from China, including by seizure at the border.
Perhaps most notably, the Strategic Approach outlines how the Administration is responding “to the PRC’s documented unfair and abusive trade practices and industrial policies,” including “practices that have contributed to a hollowing-out of the United States manufacturing base.” The document references the Section 301 tariffs, and states that they will remain in place until a fair Phase Two trade deal is reached with China. The United States also continues to pursue World Trade Organization dispute settlement actions in response to Beijing’s market-distorting subsidies and overcapacity, and “the Department of Commerce is making greater utility of United States antidumping and countervailing duties laws than in past administrations.” The document describes the Phase One trade deal reached with China, prohibiting technology transfer, strengthening intellectual property enforcement, creating new market opportunities in China and addressing unfair currency practices, as well as expanding the export of U.S.-produced goods to China.