With the ascent of Donald Trump, fears have risen that China and the U.S. might be headed for war. At least for now, any conflict is most likely to be economic. Ever since Richard Nixon’s famous visit with Mao Zedong in 1972, the U.S. has striven to treat Beijing as a partner, help its economy develop, and lure the emerging giant into the global order Washington has crafted. Trump, though, believes that policy has allowed China to prosper at America’s expense, and that it’s high time Washington stood up for U.S. workers, industry, and power. The Chinese “haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” he said in December.
Much of what Trump says about China is nonsense. But embedded in his rhetoric is an astute and significant point: China is an economic rival to the U.S., and Washington has to start acting like it is. A new approach to defend U.S. economic interests against the ascending Chinese superpower may be necessary, perhaps even critical.
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