Assessing the deterioration in China–U.S. relations: U.S. governmental perspectives on the economic-security nexus

Rosemary Foot, Senior Research Fellow in International Relations, has co-authored an article on the causes of increasing hostility between the USA and China since 2010. Her co-author, Amy King, is an alumna of the Department.


This article argues that the nexus between economic and security issues is a crucial cause of the deterioration in the U.S.–China relationship, which commenced around the mid-2010s. It outlines two strands of that nexus as enacted in the policies of the Obama and Trump administrations: (1) China’s advances in acquiring and developing new technologies that have significant commercial and military value; and (2) the economic and legal instruments and policies the United States has adopted in the wake of China’s commercial challenge to prosecute its wider strategic competition. The article traces the emergence and solidification of the economic-security nexus in U.S. policy towards China, before comparing the Obama and Trump administrations’ responses to the technological challenge posed by China. We argue that while the Obama administration was slow to recognize the extent of the challenge, it had begun to pursue a strategy that might have resulted in the reduction of competitive zero-sum dynamics in this policy area. By contrast, the Trump administration has focused more directly on the significance of recent technological innovation by China, but has not found it possible to develop a coordinated approach to dealing with it.

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    Cover of the journal, 'China International Strategy Review'
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Professor Rosemary Foot is Senior Research Fellow in International Relations, DPIR, Emeritus Fellow St Antony's College