In October 2019, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Delaware Senator Chris Coons, delivered speeches laying out their respective visions for the U.S.-China relationship. In this episode, Paul Haenle spoke with Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute at the Wilson Center, about American and Chinese reactions to the speeches and the implications for the bilateral relationship.

“America has woken up to the dangers of China,” Daly said. There is agreement that the bilateral relationship will be more competitive but a lack of consensus on a comprehensive strategy going forward. Daly argued the speeches by Pence, Pompeo, and Coons articulated different strategies for future engagement. Coons laid out an approach in which competition and cooperation with China are not mutually exclusive. He advocated for the United States to revitalize domestic policies that spur economic growth and uphold U.S. values. Alternatively, Pompeo and Pence put forth more confrontational visions for the relationship in line with those of individuals like Steve Bannon and Senator Tom Cotton who view China as an existential threat. Americans must understand that either competition or outright rivalry with China will incur significant costs for the United States, Daly argued, but the latter approach is likely to be more costly in the long term.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle holds the Maurice R. Greenberg Director’s Chair at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.

Robert Daly

Robert Daly is the director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.