Abstract: Entering the second decade of the 21st century, the U.S. policy toward China gradually evolved from “Engagement” to “Strategic Competition”. Trump’s entry into the White House is the landmark of this policy shift and Biden’s election opened a new era of overall strategic competition with China. The existing literature on the U.S. China policy shift provides three main explanations: the U.S. leadership change, China’s assertive foreign policy, and power transition. This paper provides an alternative explanation using the hegemon’s status anxiety theoretic framework, arguing that China’s rapid rise in power and the accompanying status anxiety it ignites from the U.S. is the main driving force behind U.S. policy change toward China. The paper then thoroughly examines the policy evolution from Obama to Trump and Biden administrations’ China policy. At the end of the paper, it puts forward some policy advice on how to manage the strategic risk accompanying the status anxiety in the shadow of power transition.
Key Words: Status Anxiety;Strategic Competition; U.S. China Policy; China-U.S. Relations