US and China relations have a checkered history. Today it is in its worst phase; for China’s growth is a threat to US supremacy. China is well aware of the fact that the US is creating hurdles in its way. The trade war is a manifestation of the brewing conflict.
In this scenario, the only peaceful world we can see in the future is one where the US and China accept the coexistence of each other.
Sino-US relations history
US and China rivalry started when US supported Chiang Kai Shek who later established his government in Taiwan while Mao Zedong established People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Chinese mainland. The crisis between the US and PRC continued through Korean War (1950), Tibetan Uprising (1959), Vietnam War and Chinese nuclear bomb development.
The ties witnessed a détente in 1971 when Henry Kissinger visits China as a result of Soviet Sino border tensions. Not to mention Pakistan facilitated talks and normalization of talks between US and China. China was admitted to the United Nations and was given a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Relations remained normal until the US realized China’s growing economic power amid Xi Jinping’s rise in power.
How did the US realize China was a threat?
In 2011, China became the world’s second largest economy and largest US creditor. Next year, the US announced Trans-Pacific Partnership for Free Trade Agreement with 8 countries to counter China’s growing clout. In 2014, the US accused China of cyber attacks and indicted some Chinese based in the US. The US started warning China over the South China Sea. It demanded a halt in reclamation of land in the region. It opposed militarization of the disputed territory and shared images obtained through naval surveillance which showed China was placing military equipment on a chain of artificial islands.
Trump vs Xi
After Donald Trump came to power, he started negotiations with China over trade issues. He affirmed ‘One China Policy’ and hosted Xi. He said he and Xi had witnessed a ‘tremendous progress’ on various trade issues. A ten part agreement was signed to expand trade. And issues like aluminum, car parts and steel remain unsolved.
In 2018, Trump imposed tariffs worth $50b and $34b on Chinese goods citing Chinese theft of US technology and intellectual property. Xi retaliated with its own tariffs on US goods. US Vice President Mike Pence asserted competition over cooperation in his speech. He talked about Chinese military aggression in the South China Sea, increased censorship, religious persecution and theft of intellectual property. China denounced groundless accusations.
In 2019, US blacklisted Huawei, a Chinese state owned telecom company. The Trade War intensified as the US raised 10-25% duty on $200b worth Chinese goods and China announced $60b tariffs. It was follow by $300b tariffs on Chinese goods as the US labelled China a currency manipulator. Trump signed bills to support Hong Kong protests for human rights abuse. China imposed sanctions on several US organizations in Hong Kong.
The year of 2020 saw a new turn in Sino-US relations.
In January, a Trade Deal was sign between the two countries to relax tariffs. Most tariffs remain enforced.
US and China tensions reemerged after Coronavirus started to spread. The US blamed China for its outbreak. Chinese foreign ministry stated that the US military brought it in Wuhan military drills. Trump halted funds to the World Health Organization alleging that it is biased towards China.
The US ended Hong Kong’s preferential trade status after China passed a security law for the region. Both countries banned several organizations in Hong Kong. US and China closed consulates in Texas and Chengdu.
In July, the US Secretary of State said engagement with China has failed. He said “the era of engagement with Chinese communist party is over.” He condemned aggressive moves in the South China Sea by China. He called for an end to unfair trade practices and human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Giving peace a piece of chance
The pandemic provided a wonderful opportunity for both countries to restart cooperation; Both involved in verbal fight. A rivalry between the two superpowers equipped with nuclear weapons and alliances pose a great security threat to the world. Only accepting each other’s power status can lead to peaceful coexistence. Today, we can expect Joe Biden initiating talks between two countries if he wins upcoming US presidential elections.