In a sharp break with the Obama administration, President Donald Trump's first official national security strategy clearly qualifies China as a "revisionist power" and describes it, along with Russia, North Korea, Iran and transnational terrorist groups , as one of the best threats to US interests.
These countries and groups are "actively competing against the United States and our allies and partners," the 68-page strategy document states.
Beijing and Moscow, in particular, "want to model". a world antithetical to the values and interests of EE. UU "China and Russia are determined to make economies less free and less just, to grow their armies and control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence."
Rhetoric What is less true is whether the administration intends to move forward.
Obama's latest strategy, since 2015, adopted a more conciliatory tone, one could say "diplomatic" towards Beijing. "The United States celebrates the emergence of a stable, peaceful and prosperous China, "said Obama's strategy.
The 2015 document highlighted the cooperation of China and the United States on clean energy before focusing on the many potential conflicts between the two powers. "We will closely monitor China's military modernization and expand its presence in Asia, while looking for ways to reduce the risk of misunderstandings or miscalculations."
On the contrary, Trump's strategy dismisses the diplomatic language of his predecessor. "For decades, US policy was based on the belief that support for China's rise and integration into the international post-war order would liberalize China," says the 2017 strategy. "Contrary to our hopes , China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. "
It is unusual for an administration to use a US national security strategy. UU To attack the strategy of the previous administration. "In fact, they generally emphasized continuity," said Daniel Drezner, a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University on Twitter.
To be fair, China and the United States have changed since 2017. Beijing's military construction in China's seas has accelerated since 2015. China is building heavily fortified artificial islands in mineral-rich waters while working hard to build the second most powerful naval and air forces in the world, after those of the United States. State.
In 2015, China had an aircraft carrier suitable mainly for training and only a handful of experimental aircraft to evade radars. In 2017, two more companies are under construction and at least one squadron of stealth fighters J-20 officially entered service.
But Trump's strategy faces an increasingly powerful China without taking into account China's interests and the potential for constructive diplomacy. The document states that the Pentagon's expanding missile defense program "is not intended to undermine strategic stability or disrupt long-standing strategic relations with Russia or China," essentially ruling out long-standing concerns in both countries that a missile shield it could undermine mutual deterrence and the most likely nuclear arms race is at stake.
Still, some foreign policy experts have welcomed Trump's toughest stance on China. Andrew Erickson, an expert in China at the Naval War College of the United States, called the description of the strategy of competition between EE. UU And China as "an accurate vision".
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Erickson praised the new strategy's emphasis on strategic conflict that falls short of a large-scale shooting war. "China, Russia and other state and non-state actors recognize that the United States often sees the world in binary terms, with states that are 'at peace' or 'at war' when in fact it is a field of continuous competition ", explains the administration.
Some experts refer to these war-short conflicts as military and diplomatic "gray zones." Beijing, like Moscow, feels perfectly comfortable in that nebulous strategic space.
In recent years, China has deployed a maritime militia force that sails on government-owned fishing boats under direct military command. These "little blue men," as Erickson nicknamed them (in reference to Russia's "little green men" incognito special forces) routinely harbad US warships and occupy contested Pacific waters.
Either through ignorance or a glut of caution, the Obama administration did not mention the little blue men in their two strategic documents, in 2010 and 2015, as well as in all their annual reports on the Chinese army. Trump's first report on the Chinese army, published in May, was the first major study by the US government. UU To discuss the maritime militia. The current strategy is the second to do so.
Of course, a strategy is as good as the document in which it is written if the administration does not act accordingly. Obama, on the other hand, complied with the emphasis of his 2015 strategy on green energy working hard to attract China to the Paris climate agreement.
It is unclear if Trump will comply with his own strategy of a more intelligent army and stronger alliances with facing a rising China. The strategy also describes Russia as "using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies," a threat that Trump himself has flatly refused to recognize amid concerns about his ties to Moscow.
The gap between the rhetoric of the Trump administration in Russia and the president's own words and actions may be a bad omen for the possibilities of the new strategy to translate into coherent government initiatives. "The cognitive dissonance between [national security strategy] and Trump's real foreign policy is the problem," tweeted Drezner .