It is past time for the U.S. to take a thoughtful, strategic approach to our relationship with China. For years we have kidded ourselves that as China developed economically, the country would also develop politically by democratizing and providing more freedom for its citizens. That has not happened. Xi Jinping has declared himself ruler for life. The internet has given Chinese authorities more control over its citizenry. It is becoming a repressive society. As a result our political and cultural systems are increasingly incompatible.
The Trump Administration has confronted China on trade primarily. We are currently in seemingly unending trade negotiations with them. President Trump’s preferred policy toward China is labeled America First. It is broadly defined as unilateral, protectionist, and isolationist. This policy is shortsighted. The next President, no matter who he or she is, will need to do more than flail around in a trade war. We will need proactive economic and military strategies and global partners to confront this rising power.