2001年小布希（George W. Bush）任職後，認為柯林頓政府過於強調全球化與民主化、經濟與人道議題，尤其視中共為「戰略伙伴」關係，而忽略了聯盟關係，因此規劃一系列不同於柯林頓政府的新方案。在外交政策上很明顯的表現與柯林頓時期不同的作風，雙方關係尤其在中美軍機擦撞事件後更是雪上加霜。 因為911事件的發生，使得美國國家安全及軍事戰略思維產生極巨的變化，美國國家安全戰略因此而脫胎換骨，完全放棄冷戰時期的「遏止」和「威懾」思想，而改以「先發制人」，打擊由美國單方面認定的潛在敵人。在全球反恐戰略的佈局下，美國需要爭取中共的支持與合作來打擊國際恐怖主義，因此開始積極表達對中共的善意，也因此改變了小布希初上任時對中共的戰略政策；同時隨著中共綜合國力日益提昇，面對一個新的世界大國崛起，小布希政府在不得不正視情況下，對中共的戰略思維亦逐漸進行調整。 小布希政府第二任期後，雖然其外交政策的首要任務仍然是反恐和防止大規模殺傷性武器的擴散，但隨著反恐戰爭和伊拉克情勢的緩和，小布希政府外交政策焦點逐漸回轉到美中關係上。同時隨著中共在世界多方所扮演的角色及地位愈顯重要，小布布政府逐漸感受到壓力與挑戰。因此考量在利益與責任的分攤上必須予以律定，使中共成為負責任的利益共享者身份，讓中共不但成為其全球反恐的夥伴外，並扮演區域穩定的角色。 美中戰略關係是由合作與競爭面所組成，當然它也不是簡易的二分法可以區分，而是合作與競爭兩個面向的錯綜結合、彼此影響、互為消長，並且在變動中發展的一種關係，可謂在合作中有競爭，在競爭中有合作。小布希在第二任期內與中共之間，似乎建立愈來愈好的互信，或許因為小布希政府發現，與中共及其領導人之間建立互信是其任內妥當的作為，這也顯示小布希在其第二任與第一任期對中共戰略思維有所變化之處。 Believing that the Clinton government had neglected the relations with the alliance countries due to over-emphasis on the issues of globalization, democratization, economics and humanism and the “strategic relation” with China, George W. Bush launched a series of new policies which highly differ from the ones of Clinton government after his inauguration in 2001, especially on diplomatic policy. As a consequence, the relation between the US and China went worse, particularly after the US-China spy plane incident.
The attack on the 11 of September caused a rapid change on the national security strategy of the US. The US abandoned the “hold-back” and “intimidation” thoughts of the Cold War and decided to “take the first action”, which means to strike the potential enemy judged by the US unilaterally. Under the structure of the global anti-terrorism strategy, the US needed the support and cooperation of China to fight against the international terrorism. Thus the Bush government changed its policies toward China and started to build the rewarding relations with China actively. Besides, with the emerging power of China, the Bush government had to take the China issue seriously and amend its China strategy.
In Bush’s second term, his diplomatic policies still focus on anti-terrorism and the preventing the expansion of Weapon of Mass Destruction. However, with the moderation of the war on terrorism and the situation in Iraq, the diplomatic focus has gradually turned back to the China relation. Furthermore, the more important role China is taking in the world has brought challenge and pressure to the Bush government. It has to find a balance on the interest and the responsibility that China is sharing and make China not just the partner of anti-terrorism but also the power of the regional stability.
The strategic relation between the US and China is composed by cooperation and competition and is actually a complicated mix of these two components. We can see that the Bush government has built more trustworthy relation with China in the second term and that is probably because the Bush government has considered this action the best practice for the US. This change leads us to the difference of George Bush’s China strategy in his two terms.