The U.S.-China Trade War and Policy Resilience

Edward Ashbee, Steven Hurst

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One can attribute the Trump administration’s pursuit of a trade war against the People’s Republic of China (prc) to a range of variables, including its re-election hopes, commitment to protectionism as an economic weapon, fears about Beijing’s pursuit of artificial intelligence, and broader strategic concerns about the global balance of power. This article argues that another explanation for President Donald J. Trump’s ability to change trade policy towards China was the structural weaknesses of the trade policy regime that emerged at the end of the 1990s when Congress adopted Permanent Normal Trade Relations as a designation for free trade in July 1998 and the prc joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001. Those weaknesses owed much to the ways in which the United States initially framed the new trade regime with the prc and the limited, only partially conclusive, character of the debate that took place at the time. Despite the growth and embedding of supply chains between China and the United States, these inbuilt weaknesses contributed to the progressive erosion of the trade policy regime during the years that followed. Within this context, few constituencies were ready to lobby for the prc after January 2017 and the Trump administration faced little opposition to its change of trade policy.
TidsskriftJournal of American-East Asian Relations
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)188-215
Antal sider28
StatusUdgivet - 2023


  • United States
  • People’s Republic of China
  • Trade war
  • Policy regimes
  • Policy development
  • Permanent normal trade relations