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US-China Relations in the 21st Century

In international affairs and international politics, US-China relations are essential in global affairs and foreign policy. As emerging powers with increasing influence on world events and actions, China and America’s relations impact many aspects of contemporary society such as economy, finance, security, technology, and environment (Hass, 2020). Both countries are members of the United Nations Security Council and nuclear powers. They are two of the world’s largest economies. Therefore, the relationship between these two countries is significant and has been a focus of attention for many scholars, researchers, and journalists.

The United States and China have had a complicated history of their relations, beginning with trade in the 19th century. The first treaty between the two countries was signed in 1844 when the two sides agreed on several points regarding commerce. It set the stage for further treaties over the next few decades, including one that gave Christian missionaries the right to proselytize in China. During this time, a growing movement within the United States called for it to open its borders to Chinese immigrants. Many Americans saw Chinese workers as an inexpensive labor source and were eager to take advantage of their willingness to work for low wages. This early relationship would become troubled when the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, effectively preventing Chinese immigrants from entering the country.

China and America have had an on-off relationship since the Second World War ended in 1945 (Medeiros, 2019). At this point, China was a poor and underdeveloped country with very few ties to America or any other Western country. The new communist government of China supported the Soviet Union and its allies. By contrast, America was firmly opposed to communism and did not recognize the new government of China, so it never established formal diplomatic relations with it.

The two countries would not resume normal relations until after World War II when they began working together to rebuild postwar Europe. In 1971, President Nixon traveled to China and established diplomatic relations. It led to a period of rapprochement between the two sides, culminating in the Shanghai Communique, a joint statement issued by Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The communique laid out the basic principles of US-China relations, including recognizing each other’s sovereignty and the commitment to peaceful coexistence (Goldstein, 2020). It also acknowledged that the two countries had different ideologies but affirmed that they could still work together.

Since the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and China in 1979, US-China relations have been a critical focus of American foreign policy. The 1990s saw a shift in the dynamics of US-China relations as Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms began to take effect in China. Former President Bill Clinton played an essential role in developing these relations, exemplified by his speech in Shanghai in 1998, where he argued that America should not let concerns about human rights issues hinder the development of economic ties between the two countries.

In the 21st century, this relationship has become increasingly important as both countries have experienced significant changes. The United States is now the world’s sole superpower, while China has become one of the world’s leading economies. As these two countries undergo significant transformations, it is essential to examine their bilateral relations and identify areas of cooperation and potential points of conflict.

The United States has long been the preeminent global power, with a military and economic might that have no equal. For much of the 20th century, this worked to its advantage, as it was able to exert its influence on other countries while enjoying relative isolation from the rest of the world. However, with the rise of China and other countries in the 21st century, this is no longer the case. The United States must now confront a world where it is no longer the only superpower, and its relationships with other countries are becoming increasingly complex (Gontcharova, 2011).

With China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, there was a sharp increase in trade relationships across the nations. It led to increased investment by American companies in China and vice versa and counter-terrorism. Since the early 2000s, there has been a significant increase in Sino-US military cooperation. It has been primarily driven by American worries about China’s increasing military power, a perceived challenge to America’s position in Asia. In 2015, a senior Chinese military officer popularised “New Type of Great Power Relations” to highlight China’s ambitions to be recognized as an equal world power.

China’s meteoric economic growth has been propelled by several factors, including an open economy, a large population, and an aggressive investment in education and technology. Over the past decade, China has become the world’s leading manufacturer and exporter, totaling $2.3 trillion in 2015. It is also now the world’s second-largest economy, with a high Gross Domestic Production of more than $11 trillion as China’s economy has grown, its political and military power too. The Chinese government has used its newfound wealth to invest in several high-tech weapons systems, including aircraft carriers, stealth fighters, and ballistic missiles. It has also expanded its military presence in the South China Sea, embroiled in a territorial dispute with several other countries.

So far, the US has been reluctant to take a side in the ongoing disputes in the South China Sea. However, that could change if it decided that China’s actions were detrimental to its interests or allies in the region. Military tension between the countries is unlikely, but it cannot be ruled out altogether. The United States has been watching China’s rise with a mix of apprehension and envy. On the one hand, it is alarmed by China’s growing military power and aggressive stance in the South China Sea. On the other hand, it is impressed by China’s economic progress and its ability to modernize its economy rapidly.

In the last two decades, US-China relations have taken a few hits. In 2001, a US surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet and crashed (Vinodan & Kurian, 2021). In 2009, a US security firm released a report testing cyberespionage techniques on several large American corporations from China, to which the Chinese government said it would investigate the intelligence breach. In 2010, the US announced a plan to sell arms to Taiwan. It angered the Chinese government and led to several months of tension. In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the US had been spying on China for years.

Another area of concern is China’s willingness to support Russia politically and financially. Although the country had always tried to maintain good relations with its northern neighbor, it now seems more committed than ever to supporting Russia in international affairs. It is most apparent when it comes to the ongoing conflict in Syria. In recent years, China has supported several UN resolutions to sanction Bashar al-Assad’s regime while also repeatedly blocking Western efforts to enforce them.

On the other hand, many Chinese citizens resent American hegemony for several reasons. The US has militarily and politically interfered in many countries’ internal affairs, including Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Americans also killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians during World War II with the atomic bomb and supported Taiwan’s independence movement in the 1950s and 60s.

The 21st century has seen a significant evolution in US-China relations. From trade disputes to accusations of cyber theft, the two countries have had their share of disagreements. Trade is a significant concern in US-China relations. The United States has long been concerned about China’s high tariffs and barriers to entry for American businesses. IN RECENT YEARS, the US has accused China of engaging in unfair trade practices, such as currency manipulation and intellectual property theft. As a result, the US has imposed tariffs on Chinese goods. China has responded to the US tariffs by imposing its tariffs on American goods.

The trade war between the two countries has hurt both economies. In particular, it has caused prices of consumer goods to increase and jobs to be lost. Another issue that has caused tension between the US and China is cybertheft (Lukin, 2019). The US has accused China of cyber espionage or stealing intellectual property from American businesses. China has denied these accusations, but the US has continued to pressure China to stop its cyberattacks.

Nevertheless, despite these tensions, the United States and China have made significant progress in other aspects of their bilateral relationship. In November 2014, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping announced that the United States would significantly reduce its carbon emissions by 26-28% before 2025, while China agreed it would peak its emissions by 2030. It was seen as a breakthrough, as China and US are responsible for over 40% of the carbon emitted to the globe. In November 2015, the countries also agreed on cyber security, in which both sides pledged not to conduct or support cyber theft of trade secrets or intellectual property for commercial gain.

The two countries have coexisted relatively peacefully up until recently, but with the election of Donald, Trump relations have become more strained. Trump has accused China of unfair trade practices and currency manipulation, among other things. He has also threatened to raise tariffs on Chinese goods, which could spark a trade war between the two countries. Many Chinese citizens were angry with the US because they felt that Trump was trying to contain its development. Some of Trump’s policies, opposing the One China policy and supporting the independence of Taiwan, made the US-China relationship tense and uncertain (Chen, 2019). It could have severe consequences for both countries and the world. Despite their differences, the nations must continue to work together.

The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies, and their bilateral relationship will always be necessary. The two countries have somewhat different political systems, and their economies are inextricably linked. In order for the relationship to continue to grow and flourish, both sides need to continue to work together on issues where they can agree while also managing and resolving areas of disagreement in a constructive manner (Lejun, 2021). Tensions will always exist between these two great powers, but they must manage these tensions effectively not to jeopardize the overall relationship.

One area where the two countries have worked cooperatively is in international security. The two countries have partnered to address issues like the nuclear weapons program in North Korea and the issue of climate change. They also cooperate on UN peacekeeping missions. In 2015, the US and China reached a landmark deal to limit carbon emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference. While this agreement was widely viewed as a diplomatic success, there are areas where cooperative relations have been less successful. For example, despite years of negotiations on trade agreements such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, issues such as intellectual property protection remain unresolved.

The United States has long considered China’s human rights record an area of significant concern for bilateral relations (Kim, 2018). China has faced growing international criticism over its treatment of political dissidents and ethnic minorities in recent years. Chinese leaders have emphasized their country’s state-centric sovereignty system in response to these criticisms. Despite continued American pressure on human rights, leaders in Beijing have remained resistant to international intervention in domestic affairs.

While the US and China have often seen each other as adversaries, there are several reasons why they should continue to work together in the 21st century. The most important of these is global economic interdependence (Lampton, 2013). Simply put, American prosperity is heavily dependent on China’s continued growth. Therefore, the conflict between these two countries could result in higher tariffs or greater economic sanctions and significant trade disruption that negatively impacts both countries’ economies. It makes it far less likely that either country will move towards military confrontation since this would be too costly for all parties involved. Another reason both countries should cooperate is that doing so could help them address other major global issues.

While the United States and China have collaborated on particular security concerns affecting the globe, they have struggled to find common ground on topics such as climate change. In order to address these challenges, both countries need a stable relationship where each side can trust the other. Cooperative relations in one area will enable leaders in Beijing and Washington DC to build trust between them and gradually expand their areas of cooperation until they can find solutions for all of the world’s major problems.

Many scholars predict that the US-China relationship will continue to be unstable in the future, though most agree there will be no full-on conflict. The two countries have become too economically intertwined with severing all ties. While trade disputes cause tensions between these two countries, they pale in comparison with the economic benefits of cooperation. The countries’ shared interests in world stability and free trade make it unlikely that any US-China disagreement will escalate into a full-fledged military conflict between these two powers.

In conclusion, since the early 21st century, the two nations have experienced a complicated relationship. The two countries are the world’s largest economies and have many areas of mutual interest. Some of the key issues in US-China relations include trade, cybersecurity, human rights, and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. In recent years, these issues have become increasingly contentious, and the two countries have sometimes been unable to reach a consensus on moving forward. Therefore, friction is inevitable even though the two countries have extensive economic, trade, military, and cultural ties (Friedberg, 2005). The key to maintaining a constructive and positive relationship between the United States and China is through open dialogue and cooperation on areas of mutual interest while carefully managing the differences between them.


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