China can’t be defeated. It’s dangerous to provoke and too unscrupulous to appease. But it can be countered, undermined, and enticed — a type of containment with off-ramps.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the free-trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration, might have served as a core piece of the strategy by deepening U.S. economic ties across the region. But Trump withdrew from it in his first week of office.
Deepening military cooperation with our allies in Asia should serve as another piece of the strategy. But Trump ended large joint exercises with South Korea, has thrown shade on military ties with Japan and has yet to make major arms sales to Taiwan.
Denouncing China’s human-rights abuses and championing civil rights and religious liberty would counter Xi’s efforts to entrench a cult-of-personality regime. But Trump has been silent on the subject, and his administration shelved sanctions intended to punish Chinese officials for their mass incarceration of Chinese Muslims.