The United States and China have a complex and multifaceted relationship that has evolved over the past several decades. The history of U.S.-China relations dates back to the early 19th century when U.S. merchants began trading with China. In the early 20th century, the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations, but this relationship was disrupted by the Communist Revolution in China in 1949. The U.S. did not recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) until 1979, and the two countries did not establish formal diplomatic relations until that time.
During the Cold War, the U.S. viewed China as a strategic rival of the Soviet Union, and the two countries cooperated on issues such as arms control and trade. However, tensions remained high, and the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. In the 1990s, both continued to have a complicated relationship, with disagreements over human rights, trade, and security issues.
In the early 2000s, the relationship began to shift as China’s economy grew rapidly. The U.S. saw China as an economic partner, and the two countries established a complex and interdependent trade relationship. However, tensions continued to simmer over issues such as intellectual property theft and cyber security.
The relationship between the US-China is changing its dynamics in fundamental ways. both states are involved in serious and costly wars of trade that even if fixed through dialogues, will be expected not to give the basis for long-term stability through negotiations, and will likely not provide the basis for long-term stability.
Reasons for the tension between US and China:
In the 21st century, Asia no longer reflects primary global dynamics as it did during the Cold War.
China is rising and challenging US interests while Asia as a continent is increasing in long-term importance to the United States and the world.
Now Asia is home to half of the 20 fastest-growing economies, generates 2/3rd of global growth, and accounts for 40% of global GDP.
The competition for security is not new to US-China relations, but its nature and role in the overall relationship are changing. For many years, US-China conflicts of interest have been apparent on a range of security issues including Taiwan’s status and security, US alliances, Chinese military modernization, nuclear and missile nonproliferation, maritime territorial disputes, and episodic regional security issues. Nowadays, the situation is developing in a new direction. It is because of Chinese military modernization. In the western Pacific, it is aimed at compelling US power projection abilities, and in Asia, China has made great progress in eroding traditional US military advantages. China has accumulated an “amazing amount of weaponry that they developed in a very short period of time. Their economy, is quite solid throughout the world,” Cohen said.
In the Russia-Ukraine war, the US is very concerned that China is providing lethal support to Russia in its war against Ukraine.
The US wants China to condemn special military operations carried out by Russia, as China often says other states to respect the sovereignty of others and seek peaceful resolutions of territorial disputes.
But to US’s disappointment, China has followed a different approach. Moreover, the Taiwan issue has also drawn China’s anger. In Taiwan, China has frequently said the issue is an internal affair. China claims that the self-governed island is its part, and maintains that Taiwan should have no right to have foreign relations. More recently, the relationship is going to get harder after the U.S. shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon. Moreover, a lack of visits, dialogue, and exchanges raises the danger of conflict between US-China. Both China and U.S. blame each other for the deterioration in ties and say that their own actions are rational responses to the unreasonable aggression of others.
Impacts of US-China changing relations on the Global Economy and Security:
The US and China are the two largest economies in the world, and they have a major impact on global trade. Any changes in their trade relationship, such as tariffs or trade restrictions, can have ripple effects on other countries that rely on trade with them.E.g., if the US imposes tariffs on Chinese goods, Chinese companies may shift their production to other countries, which could disrupt supply chains and affect other countries that rely on Chinese exports.
The US and China are also major investors in each other’s economies. Any changes in their investment relationship, such as restrictions on investment or divestment, can have a significant impact on global financial markets.
E.g., if US investors start pulling their money out of China, it could lead to a decline in Chinese stocks and the value of the Chinese currency, which could affect other countries that have invested in China. Both States are also major players in innovation and technology, and any changes in their relationship could affect global innovation and technological progress. E.g., if the US imposes restrictions on Chinese technology companies, it could limit their ability to innovate and disrupt the global tech landscape.
The U.S.-China relationship is increasingly defined by military tensions, as both countries seek to expand their military capabilities and assert dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. Any escalation of these tensions, such as a military confrontation, could have serious global security implications, as other countries may be drawn into the conflict or be affected by the aftermath. Both are also engaged in a battle for dominance in cyberspace, with both countries accused of engaging in cyber espionage and hacking. This could lead to cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure, such as power grids, financial systems, and communication networks, which could have serious security implications for the entire world.
The U.S.-China relationship also has significant implications for nuclear proliferation, as both countries possess nuclear weapons and play a key role in global non-proliferation efforts. Any changes in their relationship, such as increased military tensions or a breakdown in diplomatic channels, could lead to a greater risk of nuclear conflict or the proliferation of nuclear weapons in other countries.
The U.S. and China also have competing interests in various regions of the world, such as the South China Sea, North Korea, and the Middle East.
Any escalation of regional conflicts could have serious global security implications, as other countries may be drawn into the conflict or be affected by the aftermath. Any significant changes in the US-China relationship could have far-reaching implications for the global economy and global security, and policymakers and business leaders around the world will need to carefully monitor developments, adjust their strategies accordingly and work together to mitigate the risks and prevent escalation of conflicts.
The Author is a student of International Relations at the International Islamic University, Islamabad. Currently, She is associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). Her areas of interest are theories of IR and foreign policies of major powers.