In Rare Move, White House Declassifies Key China Strategy Doc

Document outlines Trump approach to countering CCP

Getty Images
January 13, 2021

The White House declassified a strategy document that lays out the Trump administration's effort to counter the rise of China, providing the public with a rare glimpse into the inner workings of national security operations.

The disclosure of documents related to national security strategy from a sitting administration is very rare, and without last week's order, the previously unknown 10-page document, drafted in 2018, would not have been available to the public until 2043. National security adviser Robert O'Brien said that the decision indicates the importance of the commitments made by American foreign policy to confront China.

"The declassification of the Framework today demonstrates, with transparency, America's strategic commitments to the Indo-Pacific and to our allies and partners in the region," O'Brien said in a statement. "The United States has a long history of fighting back against repressive regimes on behalf of those who value freedom and openness. As the world's largest economy, with the strongest military and a vibrant democracy, it is incumbent on the United States to lead from the front."

The disclosure could also foster public pressure on President-elect Joe Biden to preserve Trump's aggressive approach to Chinese influence. Biden has already come under fire for his record on approaching China's interest in Taiwan and has appointed staffers working on foreign affairs with extensive associations with China. His son, Hunter Biden, also faces criticism for his own ties to Chinese industry.

Though Biden's approach raises concerns, the document notes that its goals are not limited to four years, but rather a long-term strategy necessary to advance American prosperity.

"Enduring vital interests of the United States," the document says, would include an agenda that "promote[s] U.S. values throughout the region to maintain influence and counterbalance Chinese models of government."

The document emphasizes the importance of courting Pacific allies to counter the Chinese Communist Party. The document specifically identifies Australia, Japan, South Korea, and India. The strategy also lays out an approach to how America should arrange its own forces to deter Chinese aggression. Encouraging the sharing of defense research and buildup with allies, such as Taiwan, the strategy says that Washington must also focus on intelligence gathering and cybersecurity.

"Deter China from using military force against the United States and U.S. allies or partners, and develop the capabilities and concepts to defeat Chinese actions across the spectrum of conflict," the document says of its strategy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has taken several steps to realize some of these goals. Arms deals and a broader diplomatic channel with Taiwan remain a top priority for the current administration, while Pompeo has ordered new initiatives such as "clean" networks to protect the data of Americans from Chinese influence. Pompeo has also mulled over the notion of closer ties with Asian allies. During meetings this summer with India, Australia, and Japan, diplomats publicly floated the formation of an "Asian NATO" to counter Chinese ambitions.