The Trump administration declassified its strategy to ensure continued dominance over China, which focuses on accelerating India’s rise as a counterweight to Beijing and the ability to defend Taiwan against an attack.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien announced the publication of the document, titled “United States Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific.” Approved by President Donald Trump in February 2018, it provided the “overarching strategic guidance” for US actions the past three years and was released to show the US commitment to “keeping the Indo-Pacific region free and open long into the future,” O’Brien said in a statement.
“Beijing is increasingly pressuring Indo-Pacific nations to subordinate their freedom and sovereignty to a ‘common destiny’ envisioned by the Chinese Communist Party,” O’Brien said in an expanded statement. “The US approach is different. We seek to ensure that our allies and partners – all who share the values and aspirations of a free and open Indo-Pacific — can preserve and protect their sovereignty.”
The document lays out a vision for the region in which North Korea no longer poses a threat, India is predominant in South Asia and the US works with partners around the world to resist Chinese activities to undermine sovereignty through coercion. It assumed that China will take “increasingly assertive” steps to compel unification with Taiwan and warns that its dominance of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence will “pose profound challenges to free societies.”
China said the report had “sensationalised the ‘China threat’ theory” and showed that the US had “gone against its own pledge on the Taiwan question.”
“The contents only prove the malign motives of the US to contain China and sabotage regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a Wednesday briefing. “We need to ensure that Asia-Pacific is a stage for China and US to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation. It should not become an arena where a zero-sum game plays out.”
While the timing of the release just a week before President-elect Joe Biden takes office raises questions about the motive, the Trump administration’s actions to counter China in Asia have largely enjoyed bipartisan support.
Incoming Biden officials have talked about the need to work more with allies and partners against China, which also forms a key part of the strategy — particularly in strengthening security ties with Australia, Japan and India.
Rory Medcalf, a professor and head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, said that the document shows US policy in Asia was driven by efforts to “bolster allies and counter China.” But he noted that the strategy was so ambitious that “failure was almost assured” on issues such as disarming North Korea, sustaining “primacy” in the region and finding international consensus against harmful Chinese economic practices.
“The declassified framework will have enduring value as the beginning of a whole-of-government blueprint for handling strategic rivalry with China,” Medcalf wrote in a post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute research group. “If the U.S. is serious about that long-term contest, it will not be able to choose between getting its house in order domestically and projecting power in the Indo-Pacific. It will need to do both at once.”