In Standoff With China, Trump Opts for Platitudes Over Policy

In Standoff With China, Trump Opts for Platitudes Over Policy
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington, Oct. 4, 2018 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

In a speech last week that seemed as much an effort to catch up to recent events as a formal declaration of policy, Vice President Mike Pence put Beijing on notice that “the United States of America has adopted a new approach to China.”

The address, delivered at the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, for the most part covered familiar ground in terms of American grievances with the bilateral relationship. Having spent the past 20 years seeking to invite China into the international order as a “responsible stakeholder,” the U.S. has now run out of patience over Beijing’s unfair trade practices, domestic repression and assertive militarization of the South China Sea. Perhaps scrambling to lend weight to President Donald Trump’s recent charge of Chinese interference in America’s midterm congressional elections, Pence also added a new item to the list: “a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic and military tools, as well as propaganda,” that China is deploying “to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States.”

Whether as a candidate or president, Trump’s China policy has confounded observers, as it has lurched chaotically from provocation to engagement and back again. During the 2016 campaign, he vilified China for devaluing the yuan—although Beijing had already allowed its currency to rise—and for the bilateral trade imbalance. During the transition, he outraged Beijing by taking a congratulatory call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and questioning the sanctity of the "one China" policy. He later appointed noted China hawk Peter Navarro to his inner circle of trade advisers and threatened retaliatory tariffs.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.