U.S. Competitive Approach to the PRC: Active Burden-Shifting Strategy

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-3-90-101
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

Received 08.08.2022. Revised 01.10.2022. Accepted 07.12.2022.

Abstract. By the time Donald Trump came to the White House, the American political elites and expert community had developed a consensual perception that China’s strategy was aimed at challenging the U.S. dominance and threatening its national interests. The United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China, adopted by the Trump Republican Administration but reflecting a bipartisan position, marked the most dramatic shift in policy towards China since Richard Nixon. The main change was the recognition of the competitive nature of the U.S. – China relations, which resulted in the development and subsequent implementation of a competitive approach to relations with the PRC. This approach is largely based on the experience and theoretical concepts developed during confrontation with the Soviet Union but there are significant differences primarily due to the limitations imposed by interdependence of the American and Chinese economies, which did not exist between the U.S. and the USSR. The first part of the article reveals the concept and principles of the competitive approach, a commitment to which has been reiterated by the Biden administration. It is stated that such approach aims at forcing the PRC to change its strategy that threatens American interests. This goal is achieved by applying a complex pressure on the military and strategic, socioeconomic and politico-ideological strands through implementation of four types of competitive strategies identified by the U.S. expert community: strategies of denial, “cost-imposing” strategies, attacking the enemy’s strategy, and attacking the adversary’s political system. Their implementation is illustrated predominantly in the cases of the American–Soviet confrontation. Using the active “burden-shifting” strategy as an example, the second (practical) part of the study offers the most recent evidence of the “cost-imposing” strategy based on the principle of exploiting an enemy’s vulnerabilities in the most efficient way. It demonstrates how Washington’s approach to Afghanistan was transformed within such a strategy. The reasons for the formation, development process and the main ideas of the strategy are described in detail. It is acknowledged that the close-out of the U.S. – led security mission in Afghanistan was largely driven by the intention to shift the responsibility for the security in the region to the PRC. It is stated that there are no guaranteed tools for the Chinese leadership to counter the U.S. competitive approach, and the PRC is not enough prepared for a full-scale contest with the United States. The study concludes that it would be better for Beijing to delay transition to open competition in the bilateral relations.

Keywords: United States of America, competitive approach, U.S. – China relations, foreign policy, “cost-imposing” strategy, active “burden-shifting” strategy, Afghanistan, People’s Republic of China, Belt and Road Initiative


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For citation:
Kuznetsov N. U.S. Competitive Approach to the PRC: Active Burden-Shifting Strategy. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2023, vol. 67, no. 3, pp. 90-101. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-3-90-101 EDN: ZNQOFQ

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