From “Strategic Partners” to “Strategic Competitors”: George W. Bush and the Politics of U.S. China Policy

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Ever since Richard Nixon's 1972 "opening" to China, U.S. presidential election campaigns have been the occasion for the opposition party to strongly challenge the incumbent president's policy of engagement toward China. Once in power, however, successful challengers (Carter, Reagan, Clinton) have softened their criticism and accepted the strategic necessity of cooperation with China. In the first stage of this cycle, the 2000 election appeared to be no exception, as presidential challenger George W. Bush sharply criticized Bill Clinton's notion of a "strategic partnership" with the PRC and proposed instead that the U.S. and China were "strategic competitors." This paper examines the first six months of the Bush presidency to see if the historic pattern of post-election reversion to the status-quo ante is repeating itself in the Bush Administration. Looking, inter alia, at the individual preferences of key administration policymakers, the administration's enhanced arms sale package to Taiwan, the president's pledge to do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan, and the mid-summer visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell to Beijing, the paper documents the existence of a sharp division between "soft" realists and "hard" realists within the Bush Administration; and it concludes that while there has been a perceptible shift toward a more adversarial outlook, it is too soon to tell whether this shift will be partly offset by the normal first-term "regression to the mean."

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... As China's weight in the world economy soared in the 2000s, it generated anxieties among the political and economic elites of China's neighbours and Western powers. While the Clinton administration had labelled China as "strategic partner," the Bush administration switched to "strategic competitor" (Baum 2001). ...
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This article provides a critical analysis of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, which has been regarded as one of the most important international agreements concluded by both sides in recent years. The paper starts with a critical summary of the Agreement, which reveals that the Agreement failed to add much in terms of substance. What, then, explains the rationale for the Agreement? This article argues that the key to understand the Agreement lies not in the narrow commercial interests, but more in the broad strategic and geopolitical considerations of both the EU and China. The article concludes with a review of the development of the twin concepts of “strategic opportunity” in China and “strategic autonomy” in the EU, as well as what the confluence of these considerations would mean for the future of the Agreement.
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President Donald Trump has overseen an overhaul of U.S. China policy that includes a large military buildup, the most aggressive use of tariffs since World War II, the tightest investment and immigration restrictions since the Cold War, and the most expensive piece of soft power legislation in at least a decade. Yet Trump was not the sole architect of the hard turn in U.S. China policy. Tensions between the two countries had been growing since the end of the Cold War, albeit in fits and starts, and took a turn for the worst after the 2008 financial crisis. Trump put his unique imprint on U.S.–China relations, but U.S. China policy would have become more competitive regardless of who won the 2016 U.S. presidential election and will remain so years after Trump leaves office.
Institute for National Strategic Studies Bush Would Give Up China Partnership China and the forces of Globalization A Blue Team Blocks Beijing. Time China Issue Resists Usual White House Defenses Strategic Realism: The Future of US-Sino Security Relations. Strategic Review
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