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US and China’s Evolving Relationship - Exploring the Past and the Future

Since 1949, China and the US have maintained a relationship marked by competition and cooperation. Various attempts have been made to strengthen the political ties and improve bilateral relations with diplomacy. However, these initiatives have occasionally yielded positive results. Constructive cooperation and diplomatic dialogue, followed earlier have now been replaced by hostility and excessive regulations.

An Illustration on US and China's Evolving Relationship

Illustration by The Geostrata

This deteriorating relationship is a serious challenge for the two superpowers; the possibility of conversion of this consequential relationship evolving into an even more dangerous decline raises concerns over a potential cataclysm.

After China gained its independence, the relationship between the two nations was filled with hostility and disapprobation. Their different stances, ideologies, and Cold War rivalries allowed limited interaction; therefore forcing third parties to act as mediators. The lack of official recognition by the US strained their relationship for over 30 years.

The 1960 Sino-Soviet conflict over China's industrial policies, known as the “Great Leap Forward”; where Chinese workers had to form communes to support local industrialisation was followed by a military conflict between the soldiers, resulting in casualties on both sides in 1969, paving the way for the emergence of the relationship between Beijing and the US. 

In April 1971, China invited the US ping pong team accompanied by a few journalists; they were among the first individuals granted entry to China since its independence in 1949.

In July of 1971, the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, made a secret visit to China followed by a United Nations endowment with a Security Council seat.

It led to the slow and gradual advancement in their relationship, the signing of the Shanghai Communique in 1972 under the presidency of Richard Nixon. Finally, US President Jimmy Carter officially recognised China in 1979. That was considered a first step towards addressing problems and promoting common ground. With disagreements and cooperation, their relationship has gone through a series of ups and downs. 

The Tiananmen Square Convention 1989, was one major area of discord. The decision to carry out military action by the government on protesters demanding democratic reforms and transparency led the US Government to suspend military sales.  After a series of diplomatic dialogues their relationship experienced improvements. 

Since then the two nations have collaborated in the realm of science and technology, commerce, business partnerships, and held environmental care discussions. The United States looked for business opportunities and profits from China; the whole of China gained access to technology and support towards global trade takeovers.

This was a situation that was mutually gainful for both countries. Their relationship was described by the Secretary of State as “to be built on non-confrontation, no conflict, and mutual respect” in 2017.

Donald Trump’s election as the President of the United States marked the beginning of a sharp decline in their relationship. The Trump administration had to take drastic measures after the Chinese policies proved deleterious.

China had monopolised the US market, resulting in a steep decline in manufacturing jobs and accusations against China of theft of intellectual property and US technology used to build their domestic companies into technological powerhouses, all while providing subsidies. 

The Trump administration imposed tariffs on Chinese imports out of concern for national security. The tariffs accounted for an $80 billion tax rise on imports worth $380 billion (based on 2018 values), ranging from thousands of products such as steel, aluminium, washing machines, and solar panels.

The trade war between the United States and China escalated and intensified over time with increasing tariffs; followed by allegations of military aggression and currency manipulation against China; leading to retaliation by the Chinese government. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as the final blow to their relations, which have never recovered since.

The Biden administration maintained stronger trade restrictions and most of the tariffs, supported Taiwan and raised security concerns about China. The strategic efforts made by the Biden administration to start bilateral cooperation on governance have yet to make progress.

Both countries are currently having difficulties, but the deteriorating relationship could significantly harm both nations. Even though the US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has mentioned improvement in relations; the differences persist, and to establish a stable foundation, it is necessary to improve bilateral cooperation and diplomatic ties. 

Given shared trouble over China's increasing military power, India has been able to take advantage of poor relations between the US and China in terms of international investment and trade.

In addition to that, bilateral cooperation and diplomatic ties have been growing. They have expanded policies to promote and strengthen co-development, co-production and technology sharing. The US has supported India throughout the rising tensions with China and Pakistan in the recent past.

However, enhanced bilateral cooperation between the US and China might harm India. Before globalisation and the Indo-China War, the relationship was characterised by distrust and agonism, where the US tried to stay more focused on its relationship with China.

The US is trying to maintain hegemony and take strategic advantage of India. The Indo-US relationship is not all rosy and has its areas of contention, and the relations might be more fragile. India must adopt a more rational approach when dealing with China and the US.

The US, India, and China have reliability and strategic concerns over one another and have not chosen sides. However, the uncertain nature of China, along with its continuous rise and power in defence, might force the nations to choose. India and the US must maintain dialogue over Beijing to shape China’s concerns while consulting to strengthen cooperation.




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3 commentaires

27 mai

described the dynamics of US-China relations in perfect detail.


imperative to better relations and move forward together


Amazing insights on the us and china's evolving relationship

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