DOI: 10.17721/2521-1706.2021.11.4

Nataliia Gorodnia

Dr. Habil. (History), Professor

Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Kyiv, Ukraine

ORCID logo

This paper intends to describe and discuss the major shifts in the U.S. policy toward China under the administration of Donald Trump. Methodology. The research is based on historical methods, including a chronological approach, a study of primary sources and a comparative analysis. The developments in the U.S. policy are considered at the background of new strategic approaches and their implementation on the bilateral and regional levels.

Conclusions. The paper suggests that a shift in the U.S. policy toward China started in 2018, and it was caused by a new understanding of «China threat» for the U.S. economic and strategic interests. Strategic documents of Trump administration defined China as the most important competitor and «a revisionist state» that sought to dominate in the Indo-Pacific and to shape the world antithetical to American values and interests. The new understanding resulted from more assertive China’s policies in the East China and South China seas, its global expansion through «One belt–one road» initiative, a sharp technological and ideological competition with U.S., and other factors. First and foremost, the policy change manifested itself during U.S. – China trade war, and Trump’s attempts «to decouple» their economics. Regionally, Trump administration proposed and sought to implement «a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy» to promote a rule-based regional order together with U. S. partners at the multilateral and bilateral levels. D. Trump dropped any reliance on cooperation with China on North Korea denuclearization, and he became the first U. S. president who started a direct dialogue with the supreme leader of DPRK. American government lifted self-restrictions on contacts with Taiwan officials, however within «one China policy». U.S. Congress voted for a series of sanctions against China for the human rights violation reasons in Hong Kong and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Trump’s China policy had a bipartisan support. As a result, it was expected that a new administration would not change the policy in substance.

Key words: the United States, China, U.S. foreign policy, Donald Trump administration, U.S.–China relations.

Submitted: 11.04.2021

Full text


  1. Gorodnia, N. (2018). Dynamics of American-Chinese relations in the late XX – XXI centuries as evidence of China’s new role in the international system. In O. Oliynyk (Ed.), Ukraine – China – 25 years of cooperation: results and prospects. «One belt, one way». Кyiv: State Institution «Institute of World History of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine». Pp. 74– [In Ukrainian].
  2. Dudko, I, Pogorelova, I. (2017). China in US foreign policy strategies: from Obama to Trump. Historical and political studies, 2 (8), 54–76. [In Ukrainian].
  3. Taran, М. (2017). Chinese initiative «One Belt – One Road» and strategic challenges for the United States. American History and Politics, 4, 139– [In Ukrainian].
  4. 2017 Annual Report, US–China Economic and Security Commission. S. China Economic and Security Review Commission. [In English].
  5. Goodman, M. , Runde, D. F., Hillman, J. E. (2020, February). Connecting the Blue Dots. Center for Strategic and International Studies. [In English].
  6. Jones, (2019, January). The Era of U.S.–China Cooperation is Drawing to a Close – What Comes Next? Brookings. [In English].
  7. Hosoya, Yuichi (2020, October). Ensuring Japan’s Future as a Strategic Partner of the U.S. The Japan Times [In English].
  8. How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World (2017, June). White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. [In English].
  9. Hufbauer, G. C. (2018, November). The Unfolding of a New Cold War. EastAsiaForum. [In English].
  10. Lester, S. (2020, February). Trump’s ‘Big’ China Trade Deal Has Some Really Big Problems. The National Interest. [In English].
  11. Lowsen, B. (2021, January). The Trump Administration’s Final China Push. The Diplomat. [In English].
  12. National Security Strategy of the United States (2017, December). Washington C. The White House. Donald Trump Archive. [In English].
  13. Pompeo, M. R. (2020, July). Communist China and the Free World Future. S. Department of State. [In English].
  14. Shan, (2020, January). A Delicate Truce in the U.S. – Chinese Trade War. Foreign Affairs. [In English].
  15. Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America. Department of Defense. [In English].
  16. The Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report. Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region (2019, June). Department of Defense. [In English].
  17. Vice President Mike Pence’s Remarks on the Administration’s Policy Towards China at Hudson Institute (2018, October). Hudson Institute. [In English].
  18. Winning the Future. A Blueprint for Sustained U.S. Leadership in Semiconductor Technology (2019, April). Semiconductor Industry Association. [In English].
  19. Yefremov, D. (2018). China in the Trade War against the U.S: Tactical Capabilities and Prospects. Chinese studies, 2, 133-141. [In English].