On May 26, 2020, as required under the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act, the White House released its report, “United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China,” detailing a government-wide strategy concerning the People’s Republic of China (China or PRC). Recognizing that 40 years of direct engagement with China has not resulted in any fundamental economic or political openings there, the report states that reforms have “slowed, stalled or reversed.” In response, the Trump administration has “adopted a competitive approach to the PRC, based on a clear-eyed assessment of the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party’s] intentions and actions, a reappraisal of the United States’ many strategic advantages and shortfalls, and a tolerance of greater bilateral friction.” Referencing the 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States document (see Trump and Trade Update of December 18, 2017), the report states that the competitive approach to China has two objectives:

  • To improve the resiliency of U.S. institutions, alliances, and partnerships to prevail against the challenges China presents; and
  • To compel Beijing to cease or reduce actions harmful to the United States’ vital, national interests and those of U.S. allies and partners.

The report provides summaries of the challenges facing the United States in its relationship with China, including economic challenges, challenges to U.S. values, and security challenges. “Guided by a return to principled realism,” the report states, “the United States is responding to the CCP’s direct challenge by acknowledging that we are in a strategic competition and protecting our interests appropriately,” and the United States holds the Chinese government “to the same standards and principles that apply to all nations.” The report describes the Trump administration’s actions the past three years to implement a new strategy toward China. It concludes by stating that this new approach “reflects a fundamental reevaluation of how the United States understands and responds to the leaders of the world’s most populous country and second largest national economy.” Nevertheless, “[e]ven as we compete with the PRC, we welcome cooperation where our interests align. Competition need not lead to confrontation or conflict.”

The report was compiled by the White House and coordinated across many agencies in the executive branch.