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Experts: Tough language in Trump's National Security Strategy not workable

By Hu Zexi (People's Daily)    14:27, December 19, 2017

In its first release of the national security strategy on Monday, the Trump administration has labelled China as a strategic competitor. The document repeatedly draws attention to China and Russia as two countries that "challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity."

"China is seen as a strategic competitor because China competes effectively across the political, economic, military and informational domains in ways probably not duplicated by our other competitors," a senior administration official said a day before the strategy was released.

President Donald Trump speaks on national security Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, in Washington. Trump says his new national security strategy puts "America First." (Photo: AP)

Several American experts People's Daily has talked to share the concern that this harsh rhetoric of the Trump administration will possibly lead to more confrontation between the US and China, which is detrimental to both countries' interests.

Charles W. Freeman III, the nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, previously served as the assistant US trade representative for China affairs. As he viewed it, the Trump administration's choice of words "strategic competitor" and "revisionist" in labelling China is "strange."

Freeman recalled that George W. Bush during the campaign has also labeled China as a strategic competitor, but when he came into office, he found that labels were very limiting. "When he was asked several years later to describe the US relationship with China, he said it's very complicated. Many of the people working in the US government over the years have tried to discourage from choosing labels. … I think it's just language. … It's the most important diplomatic relationship; everybody understands that. Why any government chooses to go beyond that? I don't know."

Photo: AP

As for the possible impact, this strategy will have on the China-US relationship, Freeman voiced his optimism by saying that "the collective interest of the US and China at this point is pretty strong, a lot stronger than anyone on either side of the Pacific who wants to break this interest can do."

Freeman noted that the Trump administration's tough language regarding China represents the frustration felt by some of the American business community and the public. However, he also stressed that the feasible approach to alleviate this frustration is to have conversations and make sure those conversations have an eye on achieving solutions. "It sounds simple, but I think that is the only solution."

File photo: IC

In a speech delivered in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Trump said the national security strategy report, which has been developed for over a year, features "principled realism." However, as viewed by the former US Ambassador to China and Assistant Secretary of State Stapleton Roy, it only represents a distorted view of the world.

Roy said, "By rejecting the conception of the global community, I believe this strategy is distorted. ... Not a single member of the Trump administration has played any role in creating this international order. They don't take into account that cooperation is a necessary part of any international order, so there's a certain amateurish quality to this national security strategy."

Roy remarked that the strategy looked to China and Russia together as revisionist states, but US relationships to the two countries are radically different. The US-Russia trade is 20 times smaller than the US-China trade. Roy has also expressed unease towards the document's labeling China and Russia as revisionist powers. "I don't think the world wants to be divided into new camps. That's what the national security strategy is doing."

According to White House officials, what was specifically new in this report, compared with its predecessors, was the inclusion of economic and trade security in the report. But experts are concerned that the Trump administration's approach to global trade outlined in this national security strategy will be nothing but detrimental.

Roy said that the strategy does not put enough emphasis on cooperation as a way to overcome problems as opposed to coercing countries to do things. For example, there is a session in the strategy that treats economic relations as a tool for coercing countries.

A partner at BakerHostetler whose practice concentrates on international trade disputes told People's Daily that "anything emerging from this strategy will disrupt the global supply chain. The argument to produce things in the US that we shouldn't be making only makes it more difficult for US manufacturers to get their input materials."

As viewed by Roy, the only way to address the economic challenges between the US and China is through dialogue and negotiations. "If the Trump administration takes up the more confrontational approach, I'm afraid they will make a discovery very soon that they are damaging US interests in the process. … Other countries should not overreact to this position of the Trump administration because the approach outlined in this national security strategy is not workable."   

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Liang Jun)

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