Key Cooperative Research Institute for Policy Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the P.R.C (2022-2024)

Wei Zongyou, "Status Anxiety and U.S. Strategic Competition with China"


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