U.S. - China Relations Essay Example



The relationship between the U.S. and China has always been somewhat of a rollercoaster. Once the bilateral relationship was normalized, U.S.-China relations went through periods of mistrust, cooperation, and growth. Today, the U.S.-China partnership is coming to what seems like a breaking point, as America and China seem more like enemies than allies. I am mostly pessimistic about the future prospects for cooperation in U.S.-China relations as the topics of human rights, economics, and the current coronavirus pandemic create tension between the two nations. 

The issue of human rights continues to be a point of contention between the U.S. and China. The Chinese government fears domestic instability, which has historically led to a severe crackdown on political dissent. China’s recent responses to civil unrest have led to many of the nation’s most recent human rights violations. In 2009, the Chinese government wanted to stop “religious extremism” as it was viewed as the root cause of the mass protests in Xinjiang. This resulted in the containment of one million Uyghur Muslims from Xinjiang in internment camps by the People’s Republic of China (Kastner Lecture 11/18). In 2019, protests in Hong Kong erupted over the newly proposed extradition law and demonstrators eventually started to call for the establishment of more democratic institutions. The Chinese government mostly blamed the U.S. for the Hong Protests as they were democratically charged, and the PRC arrested protestors. However, in both cases, the Chinese government responded to civil unrest by increasing citizen surveillance. In response to the Hong Kong demonstration specifically, China passed the National Security Law which criminalizes terrorist activity along with “collusion with a foreign country” or “external elements” that are deemed to endanger national security (Kastner Lecture 11/18). This surveillance drastically reduces freedom of speech, as people are less likely to speak out against the PRC government due to fear of being watched and therefore detained and punished. As Chinese citizens continue to speak out against the PRC, the Chinese government will continue to try to curb dissent, and in the process of doing so, will most likely commit human rights violations. 

Therefore, human rights will continue to be a point of contention between the U.S. and China. America has historically been a nation to stand up to injustices around the world and push for the spread of democracy. China’s communist system and its human rights violations challenge America’s role as a police of the free world. Thus, America has viewed China “through human rights lenses” since Tiananmen and pushed for China to stop abusing human rights (Shirk 223-224). On the other hand, China sees protests, a cause of the nation’s human rights violations, as America’s fault because China’s civil unrest demands democracy. China does not want America to police its internal affairs. Recently, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated firmly in a speech in July of this year, that China does not seek to remodel the U.S, that socialism is right for the nation, and that America “meddles in China’s domestic affairs”(Wang Yi “Stay on the Right Track and Keep Pace …”). In the future, it does not appear that China will transform into a democratic state. Looking at recent events, it also appears that Chinese citizens will continue to protest, and therefore the Chinese government will probably continue to detain Uyghur Muslims, arrest protestors, and conduct extreme surveillance on its people. In response, America will not look the other way and instead will continue to push China to stop abusing human rights. As a result, China and the U.S. will continue to clash over the topic of human rights, blocking cooperation between the two nations. 

Economics is another point of contention between the two countries. China is currently America’s largest trade partner, but the bilateral trade relationship is unbalanced where the U.S. imports more from China than it exports. The current Trump administration, in an effort to fix this bilateral trade balance, started a trade war with China that began with tariffs on steel and aluminum (Kastner Lectures 11/30 and 12/2). In addition, the U.S. has various complaints about China’s economic policies and how it relates to the bilateral trade relationship. America claims that China’s industrial and subsidy policies, its limitation of foreign access to the Chinese market, and its somewhat fixed currency, gives China an unfair trade advantage by making its exports more competitive (Kastner Lectures 12/2 and 12/7).  As a result, some Americans argue that the U.S. should distance itself from China economically. 

Economics is stopping cooperation between the U.S. and China because it has created a lot of tension between the two nations, so much so that there is now a trade war. When it comes to trade, America views China as an adversary. The U.S. feels that China has an unfair advantage which is causing the bilateral trade relationship to tilt in its favor. However, this unbalanced trade relationship is not going to end any time soon, because the trade war alone is not going to solve America’s trade deficit with China. The U.S. trade deficit is not necessarily because China has an unfair advantage but is a result of the “United States own spending habits” as the U.S. has had a trade deficit since 1975 with most of its trading partners (Shan 104). Thus, as long as America continues to place the blame for the U.S. trade deficit onto China instead of America’s own spending habits, the trade war will continue. America will instead persist in trying to get China to change its economic policies. However, as long as America views China as an enemy in trade, there will not be any true cooperation or betterment of the economic relationship between the two nations. 

The newest point of contention is the current coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic further stressed the relationship between the U.S. and China. Before the pandemic, America grappled with the right way to convince China to contribute to the global community. The Obama administration urged the People’s Republic of China to take a more “constructive” global role. Uncertainty arose about whether China was going to contribute to the international system or “disrupt global governance efforts” by obstructing them or refusing to participate on the global stage (Christensen The China Challenge 246-288). The pandemic exposed America’s fears about China not becoming a good global actor. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech in July of this year stated how the pandemic is worsening because the Chinese Communist Party “failed in its promises to the world”(Pompeo “Communist China and the Free World’s Future”). China did initially mishandle communication about the virus,  as there was a lack of transparency and the Chinese government began to censor news related to the virus (Huang). However, the Chinese government feels that America is trying to portray China as an enemy, and has a strategy that is misinformed (Wang Yi “Stay on the Right Track and Keep Pace …”).  The coronavirus pandemic continued to expose the differences that caused tension between the U.S. and China. Instead of cooperating when the world needed it most, the U.S. and China quickly became adversarial. The coronavirus pandemic, like human rights and economics, pitted the U.S. and China against each other instead of furthering the two nation’s bilateral relationship.

The issues of human rights, economics, and coronavirus create tension between the U.S. and China. This tension pits the two nations against each other, leaving no room for cooperation. Both nations blame and criticize the other. There is a sense of mistrust and misperception between the two nations. The prospect of cooperation between the two nations seems bleak unless America and China can come to a point of mutual agreement. The current coronavirus pandemic has shown that cooperation between the U.S. and China is necessary and that if the two nations can work together, they can both set a standard for the entire world.