Xiaogu Xu | July 12, 2019
Responding To: The Future of U.S.-China Relations: Friend or Foe?
A Troubled Outlook for Sino-U.S. Relations
It is almost impossible to predict a promising future for the U.S.-China relationship at the very moment when President Trump just ramped up tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from the previous 10% rate, not to mention Huawei being blacklisted in American market to sell products or buy semiconductors, escalating the U.S.-China trade war. Tough response from Chinese authority in the mass media to a series of measures taken by Trump Administration has fueled the tension between these two countries. Trade frictions, however, are just the most obvious portion or the surface of U.S.-China conflicts. In the coming decade, there will be comprehensive clashes between America and China in all aspects from politics, military, economics to culture.
Generally, the United States acts as an aggressive attacker trying to guard and reclaim its original interests while China is a tough defender with no tolerance concerning its key interests. For the United States, since China’s comprehensive national strength especially in economic sector is approaching America, China’s role of a cooperator has gradually transferred to the status of a rival. China has threatened America to maintain the position of “Mistress of the World”. Many American officials and scholars start to recall the old days of the Cold War. Although the times has changed drastically and the social condition of the Soviet Union and China have huge differences, this comparison makes sense to some degree. However, globalization and close economic ties between the United States and China has made complete sanction and blockade impose an extremely high cost, and therefore a new Cold War would hardly happen unless there exists irreconcilable conflicts of key interests of both countries. Unfortunately, such factors do exist and get increasingly reinforced since Chinese President Xi came to stage. The voice for bringing Taiwan back and hence realizing unification seemingly tends to become even louder, which is extremely dangerous, as we all know that, the likelihood of America abandoning its protection of Taiwan is minimal. For China, there is also no space for compromise because defending territorial integrity is the promise the government made to the public as well as the guarantee to stabilize the regime. Due to China’s sustained rapid economic growth and significant progress in scientific technology, popular nationalism has risen and pressed the government to take a strong attitude outwards.
Besides, the U.S.-China engagement will never come back to old levels because the United States targets China to divert its domestic crisis (another whipping boy is Mexico). For years, President Trump has attributed the high unemployment rate and huge economic imbalance in America to China. According to his logic, it is because Chinese companies export incredibly cheap products to American markets that American products have no competitiveness, the manufacturing industry is shrinking, and workers are losing their jobs. Chinese immigrants to America are also an accomplice for the high unemployment rate. The Trump Administration has shaped the United States as a victim while China is a beneficiary in globalization, which is far from the truth. China indeed benefits a lot from free trade worldwide and so does America. Under the circumstance of diminishing trade barrier, the United States is able to fulfill its global strategic layout and make numerous profits. The problem is, nearly all the wealth is into the pocket of top 1% of extremely rich people in America while the remaining 99% suffer from the blows, which is the result of irrational structure of wealth distribution. Nevertheless, since Trump himself is among the top 1%, he will not reform the policy of wealth distribution. In need of support from the masses, however, he has to figure out a way to alleviate the problem and China is a good choice. The strategy will continue and strengthen if Trump gets a second term of office in the coming election in 2020, which is very likely. Some people may argue that, America’s foreign policy is fluctuating according to different presidencies. But in my opinion, even if Trump fails to get reelected, his successor will not do a somersault as long as China is regarded as the challenger to America, the only superpower in the world.
As a consequence, the relationship between the United States and China in the foreseeable future is not optimistic. The level of seriousness is unpredictable, from occasional frictions in a specific area to complete sanction and blockage.
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