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Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president threatens to upend the world’s most important bilateral relationship. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to label China a currency manipulator and to respond to its “theft of American trade secrets” and “unfair subsidy behavior” by levying a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports. As president-elect, he reversed four decades of U.S. policy when he spoke by telephone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and declared that the United States was not bound by the “one China” policy, the diplomatic understanding that has underpinned Washington’s approach to Beijing since 1979.
Trump’s actions, however, have only compounded deeper problems in the Sino-American relationship. Recent Chinese policies have fueled concerns that the country seeks to overturn the post–Cold War geopolitical order. President Xi Jinping has begun to modernize China’s military, gradually transforming the regional balance of power. He has pursued assertive