Under Trump, China has finally been recognized as a long-term strategic opponent and potential enemy, rather than a nation of billions yearning for democracy. Capitalism has indeed taken hold in China — though without economic nor political liberalization. Instead, authoritarian China is using its newfound riches to expand its economic, political and military influence.
Since Clinton permanently normalized trade relations with China in 2000, American manufacturing has relocated to China for its cheap labor, the Chinese have consistently cheated on trade and the annual U.S. trade deficit with China has soared from $83 billion to a record $419 billion in 2018. Recognizing that placating China and quietly nudging it to play fair is not going to work; Trump has taken a more direct approach and assessed tariffs on Chinese imports while threatening even more. The Chinese are now at the table, talking, and Washington may at last secure a more equitable deal.