U.S. strategy toward the People’s Republic of China has rested for more than four decades on two basic propositions. The first is that the Chinese economy would be changed irreversibly by the rising prosperity caused by market-oriented policies, greater foreign investment, ever-deeper interconnections with global markets and broader acceptance of international economic norms. Bringing China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 was the apotheosis of this assessment.

The second proposition is that, as China’s national wealth…

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