The United States of America is one of the world states with a multi-vector policy and an extensive network of international interactions. Being a key player in the global politics of states, it faces many challenges and problems as other countries require its reaction and comments on resolving any issues. Over the past decade, these policy issues have been diverse such as the nuclear threats of North Korea and Iran, the war in Afghanistan and Syria, and the confrontation with Russia.
However, one of the main foreign policy challenges of the current administration is the increasing competition with China in the economic, political, and defense sectors since China’s growth in these areas threatens US national security.
It is necessary to consider this challenge at the individual and system level to identify the causes and features of its development. An individual level of analysis allows explaining the causes of the problem and if another politician or head of state could avoid it. The system level of analysis will reveal the origins of the challenge of international politics, its features, as well as possible consequences (Lamy et al. 129).
The country’s foreign policy is largely dependent on the actions of the head of state, especially in the United States, where the president is a representative of the state in the international arena. President Trump’s actions have sparked critical comments from his opponents, regular people, analysts, and political scientists. A vivid example of these actions’ consequences is the impeachment procedure, which, although not connected with China, undermines the authority of the United States in the global arena. However, there are two compatible points of view in considering the confrontation between China and the United States and their trade wars.
The first point is that many people accuse Trump of starting trade wars with China, which threatens the US economy. According to Wolfers, Trump’s trade policy-driven by his protectionist instincts is a failure as raising export tariffs from China has increased prices of domestic goods, which undermines the competitiveness of local producers. Higher prices for raw materials mean an increase in the cost of manufacturing American products, and, in this case, the buyer is more profitable to buy goods from the EU or Canada. In addition, the increase in tariffs by the United States entailed a response from China, which also increased fees on American export. Consequently, Trump’s radical and protectionist policies, which are a manifestation of his perception, have hit the United States twice.
There is also an opinion that considers these international events at the system level and argues that trade wars and the recession are not Trump’s or China’s fault. According to Pettis, increased economic competition is a consequence of modern economic trends and a logical phase in the economic cycle. The author of the article explains, “In this globalized system, rising income inequality is both the cause and a consequence of international trade competition” (Pettis).
In other words, the need for competition in the global market creates income inequality, which in turn resulted in a trade confrontation. However, Germany and Japan’s features of the economy and politics, which have a more significant imbalance than China, do not yet threaten US security, so these states are not involved in trade wars. Consequently, from system analysis, trade wars are an inevitable consequence of world system trade activities and economies that are built on the principles of global competition.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to consider other areas of confrontation between the United States and China to understand the main foreign policy challenge in terms of world order and the distribution of power. A developed economy is the foremost opportunity to influence other areas of global interaction. The United States today has one of the most powerful armies in the world, including the NATO alliance and political influence. However, China invests by using the profit from economic activity both in the development of technologies for the trade, strengthening the army and international power.
According to Medeiros, the US may be defeated in the confrontation with the Chinese military, and investment in the development of technologies will increase China’s power and undermine the traditional US military advantages in Asia (96). In addition, such projects as the Belt and Road Initiative and the technology for export “China model” threatens the spread of its political influence and authoritarian power model in Asian and African countries (Medeiros 101-102). Such changes also put at risk the political and economic security of the United States; therefore, the government must resist them.
However, the liberal approach of international relations offers a solution for the long-term perspective. This approach involves the cooperation of states to achieve common goals and peaceful coexistence. Medeiros notes that the confrontation between the US and China is more a condition than a strategy in which the government needs to reassess tactic tools if they want to compete on equal terms (113). This fact coincides with the ideas of liberalism, which state that all problems can be resolved peacefully and by cooperation without resorting to conflicts and military threats (Lamy et al. 83). Consequently, the United States needs to revise relations and agreements with China, which will help the country to retain the growing power of China, but avoid appliance of radical and extreme measures.
Moreover, presidential candidate Joe Biden also offers some liberal, but at the same time, tough decisions regarding China. He insists that, first of all, efforts should be directed inside the state to strengthen the influence of domestic business and develop technologies that will allow the US to resist China in this sphere (Biden). In other words, Biden says that the United States can maintain its leadership only if it can develop its economy and the most important technology to such a level that it confronts China.
The candidate also repeatedly mentions that the policy of protectionism and separation from other players in international relations is a failure, and the United States must establish and restore friendly relations with other states. Consequently, these statements contain liberal accents since liberals believe that countries need to defeat their competitors by political and economic superiority but not power and destruction.
The US can also apply the strategy of consolidation and alliance that has existed throughout history. The liberal approach to political problems considers international agreements as one of the main instruments of influence since, through joint actions, states can convince other countries to obey the world order (Lamy et al. 84). Biden declares that the US has a quarter of the world’s GDP, so cooperation with European countries will give them an advantage over the Chinese economy.
Hence, US-European alliances confront China as, under pressure from states with economic power, it will be forced to submit to their terms. Thus, the liberal approach can be successfully applied to overcome such a US foreign challenge as a confrontation with China.
These recommendations are logical but may take a long time to be implemented. The search for allies to regulate China may take a long time, and some US concessions to partners because many European countries are also dependent on exports from China. On the other hand, this option is the most effective and safe for the United States. The US will not lose one of its largest partners and will not increase the risks to its security by continuing to trade with China.
At the same time, economic or political arrangements with other countries will provide an opportunity to confront China and reduce its ambitions to spread influence first to Asia and then to other continents. In addition, an open military confrontation or a more severe trade war will bring nothing but destruction and also put the United States in even greater danger.
Therefore, the trade war and the confrontation between the United States and China is one of the main challenges to American foreign policy as it threatens the security of the state and its leading positions. The liberal approach offers peaceful ways to solve the problem through alliances and international institutions for the regulation of interstate interactions. These measures are the most logical and justified because countries are interdependent, and their opposition will affect not only their well-being but also the world economy.
Lamy, Steven L., et al. Introduction to Global Politics. 4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2017.
Medeiros, Evan S. “The Changing Fundamentals of US-China Relations.” The Washington Quarterly, vol.43, no.3, 2019, pp. 93-119. Web.
Pettis, Michael. “Why Trade Wars Are Inevitable.” Foreign Policy. 2019. Web.
Wolfers, Justin. “An A- for the U.S. Economy, but Failing Grades for Trump’s Policies.” The New York Times. 2019. Web.