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Bucking Beijing

An Alternative U.S. China Policy

U.S. President Barack Obama listens to a response from Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, June 7, 2013.   Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

In contrast to its Cold War strategy of containment, Washington's current approach to China is not the product of a deliberate planning process. It is nowhere codified in official documents. Indeed, it does not even have a name. Still, for the better part of two decades, the United States has pursued a broadly consistent two-pronged strategy combining engagement and balancing. 

U.S. presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama have worked to engage China through diplomacy, trade, scientific cooperation, and educational and cultural exchange. Since the mid-1990s, successive administrations have also taken steps to maintain a favorable balance of power in East Asia. As China has grown stronger, the United States has bolstered its own military capabilities in the region, enhanced its strategic cooperation with traditional allies, and built new partnerships with other countries that share its concerns, such as India and Singapore.

The engagement half of this strategy

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