By: Barry Pavel

What is the kernel of the issue?

In previous administrations, US policymakers have linked issues across the policy agenda vis-à-vis China in a way that ultimately did not serve US and allied interests. For example, during the Obama administration, US policymakers did not push back on China’s aggressive military activities in the Asia-Pacific for fear of losing China’s diplomatic cooperation on reining in North Korean and Iranian nuclear proliferation.

Why is the issue important?

The United States and its allies have a wide array of policy agenda items before them relating to managing the continuing, assertive rise of China. Linking issues across these policy agenda items could risk weakening the Biden administration’s ability, in close consultation with U.S. allies, to push back on China where it violates important international norms or other core U.S. and allied interests. The Biden Administration faces urgent challenges and opportunities relating to China which, if not handled effectively, could set US and allied security back in highly damaging ways.

What is the recommendation?

The United States and its allies should not link the many China policy issues technology, trade, security, cyber, and other domains, with each other.  On the contrary, the United States should push back where it sees fit to do so (e.g., on inequitable Chinese trade practices) based on the merits of the issue, and not hold back on such policies because it seeks China’s cooperation in other areas.