Journal of Social and Political


ISSN 2615-3718 (Online)

ISSN 2621-5675 (Print)

Published: 30 April 2020

European & American Think Tanks and the Reality of US-China Trade War: An NPF Application

Su Jiangli

Shanxi University, China

pdf download

Download Full-Text Pdf


Pages: 375-388

Keywords: Narrative Policy Framework, Think Tanks, Trade War, Tariff, Multilateral Rule-Based System


NPF probes into a policy narrative and answers questions about who are the heroes, villains and victims? How does the narrative deploy plot, causal mechanisms and symbolic languages to register meaning and reflect policy realities? Applying NPF to explore four Western European and American think tanks’ narratives about US-China trade war in 2018, this study aims to construct the reality of this trade war through making comparison of the different narrative elements, strategies and underlying belief systems used in their narratives. This study finds that their divergent casting of heroes and victims, their differences in the employment of plot, causal mechanism and symbolic languages reflect the divergence of their economic and diplomatic interests, as well as different interpretations of the nature of this trade war. This study also shows think tanks’ narratives are valuable policy inputs and desirable to conduct NPF analysis.


  1. Bergstern, F. (2018). China and United States: Trade conflict and systemic competition. [online] Policy Brief 18-12, PIIE. Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  2. Boittin, F. and Gandolphe C. (2018) The Trump-led trade war with China: Energy dominance self-destructed? [online] IFRI report. Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  3. Bown, C. (2018 a). What we do and don’t know after Trump’s tariff announcement. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

  4. Bown, C. (2018 b). The element of surprise is a bad strategy for a trade war. Harvard Business Review. [online] Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  5. Bown, C. (2019). US-China Trade War Tariffs: An Up-to-Date Chart. Trade& Investment Policy Watch (Feb. 14) Washington: Peterson Institute for International Economics.

  6. Bown, C. and Irwin, D. (2018). Does Trump want a trade war? Washington Post. [online] Available at 1930s/?utm_term=.

  7. e6848addc5a9 [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  8. Brown, K. (2018). Xi Jingping, trade war and the curse of the strong leader. Diplomat. [online] Available at [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

  9. Chan, M. (2017). Trump’s top China expert, isn’t a China expert. Foreign Policy. [online] Available at

  10. trump-china-expert/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

  11. Davidson, A. (2016). Trump’s Muse on US trade with China. New Yorker. [online] Available at [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

  12. Drezner, D. (2017. A Straussian National Security Strategy. Washington Post. [online] Available at

  13. security-strategy/?utm_term=.c640330e18a6 [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

  14. Gill, B. (2018). US allies aren’t buying its new strategies to confront China. Diplomat. [online] Available at [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

  15. Haass, Richard N. (2002) Think tanks and US foreign policy: A policy maker’s perspective. U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda. Vol. 7 No. 3. pp. 1-22.

  16. Gracia-Herrero, A. (2018). China’s view of the trade war has changed—and so has his strategy. Brink. [online] Available at [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

  17. Gracia-Herrero, A. (2019). Lose-lose scenario for Europe from ongoing China-US negotiations. The Corner. [online] Available at [Accessed 18 Feb. 2019]

  18. Jones, M., Shanahan, E. and McBeth, M. (Eds). (2014). The Science of Stories: Applications of Narrative Policy Framework. New York: Palgrave McMillan, p.9, p4-7, p.6.

  19. Kennedy, S. (2016). The WTO in wonderland: China’s awkward 15th Anniversary.

  20. CSIS commentary [online] Available at [Accessed 18 Feb. 2019]

  21. Lardy, N. (2018). Does China force foreign firms to surrender their sensitive technology? PIIE commentary [online] Available at [Accessed 19 Feb. 2019]

  22. Lawrence, R. (2018). Trump’s trade war with China has everyone confused. Here’s what American president really wants. [online] Available at

  23. opinion/trump-s-trade-war-china-has-everyone-confused-what-america-ncna900761 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2019]

  24. Lynch, D. (2018) How a U.S.-China trade fight could become trench warfare. Washington Post, [online] A1. Available at

  25. trade-fight-could-become-trench-warfare. [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019]

  26. Lovely, M. (2018). How China wins the trade war. New York Times. [online] p.A19 Available at [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019]

  27. Lovely, M. and Liang, Y. (2018). Trump’s tariff primarily hit multinational supply chains, harm US technology competitiveness. Policy Brief 18-21. PIIE. [online] Available at [Accessed 21 Feb, 2019]

  28. Meltzer, J. (2018). Battered in 2017, trade may face Trump’s full wrath. The Hill. [online] Avialable at [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019]

  29. McBeth, M., Jones, M. and Shanahan, E. (2014). The narrative policy framework. In P. Sabatier and C. Weible, ed., The Theories of Policy Process 3rd ed. Boulder: Westview Press, pp 225-266.

  30. McBeth, M., Shanahan E., Arnell, R. and Hathaway, P. (2007). The intersection of narrative policy analysis and policy change theory. Policy Studies Journal, 35 (1), pp. 87-108.

  31. McGann, J. (2007). Think Tanks and Policy Advice in the United States: Academics, Advisors, and Advocates. New York: Routledge, p.11.

  32. McGann, J. (2019). 2018 Global go to think tank index report. Pennsylvania: University of Penn. TTSCP Global Go To Think Tank Index Reports. [online] p.147, p.99. Available at [Accessed 22 Feb. 2019]

  33. Medvetz, T. (2012). Think Tanks in America.Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p.2.

  34. Niblett, R. (2018). How will Europe will try to dodge the US-China standoff in 2019. Chatham House commentary [online] Available at

  35. europe-will-try-dodge-us-china-stand-ff-2019

  36. Noland, M., Hufbauer, G., Robinson, S. and Moran, T. (2016) Assessing trade agendas in the U.S. presidential campaign. Policy Brief 16-6, PIIE. [online] Available at

  37. [Accessed 22 Feb. 2019]

  38. NSS (2017). National Security Strategy of the United States of America [online] Washington D.C.: White House.p.2, p. 25 Available at

  39. -Final-12-18-2017-0905-2.PDF [Accessed 22 Feb. 2019]

  40. Nye, J. (2011). The Future of Power. New York: Public Affairs, p.XVii.

  41. O’Bryan, T., Dunlop, C. and Radaelli, C. (2014) Narrating the “Arab Spring”: Where expertise meets heuristics in legislative hearings. In M. Jones, E. Shanahan, and M. McBeth ed., The Science of Stories: Applications of Narrative Policy Framework. New York: Palgrave McMillan, pp. 107-129.

  42. Petri, P. (2019). Why the CPTPP could be the answer to the US-China trade war. South China Morning Post. [online] Available at

  43. /why-cptpp-could-be-answer-us-china-trade-war [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019]

  44. Petri, P. and Plummer, M. (2019) China should join the new trans-pacific partnership. Policy Brief 19-1. PIIE. [online] Available at Pb 19-1.pdf [Accessed 22 Feb. 2019]

  45. Pethokonkis, J. (2016). Donald Trump keeps bashing China, that’s immoral. The Week [online] Available at [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019]

  46. Pisani-Ferry, J. (2018). The global economy’s three games. Project Syndicate. [online] Available at

  47. [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

  48. Prasad, E. (2016). Trump’s Chinese scapegoat, Project Syndicate. [online] Available at

  49. accesspaylog [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  50. Schell, O. (2015). A main stay of presidential campaign: China-bashing. CBS News, [on line] Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  51. Seaman, J. (2018). Trade wars: A French perspective. Italian Institute for International Political Studies. [online] Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  52. Shanahan, E., Jones, M., and McBeth, M. (2017). How to conduct a narrative policy framework study. The Social Science Journal(2017) [online] Available at

  53. 2017.12.002 [Accessed 12 March, 2019]

  54. Shanahan, E., Jones, M., McBeth, M. and Lane, R. (2013). An angel on the wind: How heroic policy narrative shape policy realities. Policy Studies Journal, 41(3), pp. 453-458.

  55. Siroen, J. (2018). Trump trade wars: The outcry against multilateralism. Politique Etrangere. [online] Vol. 83, No.4, Winter 2018-2019. Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  56. Smith, A. (2017). Trump filled his vaunted trade team with China hawks. Business Insider. [online] Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  57. Stokes, D. (2018). Trump, American hegemony and the future of liberal international order. International Affairs, 94: I (2018), PP (133-150).

  58. Stone, D. (2012). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. (3rd ed.) New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, p. 158, p.110, p. 168, p. 208, p.211.

  59. Stone, D. (1996). Capturing the Political Imagination: Think Tanks and the Policy Process. London: Frank Cass, p.125.

  60. Stone, D. and Denham, A. (2004). eds, Think Tank Tradition: Policy Research and the Politics of Ideas. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

  61. Wang, J. (2018). Tariff dispute is just one tussle in longer US-China struggle. Diplomat. [online] Available at [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  62. USCC (2018). 2018 Report to Congress of the U. S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.[online] Washington D.C.: USCC Available at

  63. files/annual_reports/Executive%20Summary%202018%20Annual%20Report%20to%20

  64. Congress.pdf [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019]

  65. Weaver, Kent. (1989). The changing world of think tanks. PS: Political Science& Politics. Sept. 1989, pp 563-577.

About Us

The Asian Institute of Research is an online and open-access platform to publish recent research and articles of scholars worldwide. Founded in 2018 and based in Indonesia, the Institute serves as a platform for academics, educators, scholars, and students from Asia and around the world, to connect with one another. The Institute disseminates research that is proven or predicted to be of significant influence for the general public.

Contact Us

Please send all inquiries to the email:

Business Address:

5th Floor, Kavling 507, Fajar Graha Pena Tower, Jl. Urip Sumohardjo No.20, Makassar, Indonesia 90234

Copyright © 2018 The Asian Institute of Research. All rights reserved

Stay Connected

  • Instagram - Black Circle
  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • LinkedIn - Black Circle