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The Trump Administration and China: Policy Continuity or Transformation?

Ashbee, Edward and Hurst, Steven ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5309-9129 (2021) The Trump Administration and China: Policy Continuity or Transformation? Policy Studies. ISSN 0144-2872

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Abstract

The long-run consequences of the Trump presidency on US foreign policy have been a subject of debate. Policy towards China is one arena in which observers have argued that Trump's impact has been significant and is likely to outlast him. Indeed, it might be considered transformational. Many of the commentaries have, however, been largely anecdotal. So as to provide a more rigorous analysis of policy transformation we employ a previously developed framework that focuses on ideational shifts, the development of new or reconfigured interests that are allied to a particular policy, and institutional changes as a basis for change to be considered transformational and thereby enduring. Applying these criteria to Trump's China policy we argue that while there has been a paradigmatic change structured around the embrace of “strategic competition”, there have been some, but rather more limited, shifts in the character of interest configurations and institutional structures. We nonetheless conclude that while policy transformation is incomplete the changes that the Trump White House wrought have been profound and are very likely to shape the actions of future administrations.

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