China–United States relations

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China–United States relations, more often known as U.S.-China relations, China-U.S. relations or Sino-American relations, refer to international relations between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China, the countries with the two largest economies in the world.





  • President Trump is myopically focused on trade with China, which is only part of the picture. There are many other areas where aides agree we should be holding the Communist government's feet to the fire. Yet the foreign policy team can't really get him to focus on anything but the trade war. Americans should ask: Where is his Chinese human rights policy? Why is he so silent about the most significant pro-democracy demonstrations in the regime in two decades, when folks around him are pushing him to act? Where is his proposal to contest China's influence region by region? Is there any long-term plan? There are government bureaucrats who care about these questions and have their own designs. We've discussed ideas around the table, but it doesn't matter if it isn't part of a bigger plan. The president can say he wants to keep his enemies guessing, but we all know those are the words of a man without a plan.
  • China should be our biggest worry. In his first-ever speech on the Senate floor, Mitt Romney compared Beijing to "the cook that kills the frog in a pot of boiling water, smiling and cajoling as it slowly turns up the military and economic heat." Mitt is right. The United States is taking its eye off the ball with China, and our national response has been ad hoc and indecisive under President Trump. We have no serious plan to safeguard our "empire of liberty" against China's rise. There is only the ever-changing negotiating positions of a grifter in chief, which will not be enough to win what is fast becoming the next Cold War.


  • I do think that the central political ideas articulated in Chinese culture ought to serve as the standard for evaluating political progress or regress in China. And I do think those values are different from the liberal ideas embraced in the United States. There is a huge gap between the ideal and the reality-that is always the case. But the more fundamental question is what should serve as the standard?
  • When it comes to China, I want to be clear and consistent. We seek to responsibly manage the competition between our countries so it does not tip into conflict. I've said, "We are for de-risking, not decoupling with China." We will push back on aggression and intimidation and defend the rules of the road, from freedom of navigation to overflight to a level economic playing field that have helped safeguard security and prosperity for decades. But we also stand ready to work together with China on issues where progress hinges on our common efforts. Nowhere is that more critical than accelerating the climate crisis -- than the accelerating climate crisis. We see it everywhere: record-breaking heatwaves in the United States and China; wildfires ravaging North America and Southern Europe; a fifth year of drought in the Horn of Africa; tragic, tragic flooding in Libya -- my heart goes out to the people of Libya -- that has killed thousands -- thousands of people.
  • Trump spoke with Xi Jinping by phone on June 18, ahead of 2019's Osaka G20 summit, when they would next meet. Trump began by telling Xi he missed him and then said that the most popular thing he had ever been involved with was making a trade deal with China, which would be a big plus politically. They agreed their economic teams could continue meeting. The G20 bilateral arrived, and during the usual media mayhem at the start, Trump said, "we've become friends. My trip to Beijing with my family was one of the most incredible of my life." With the press gone, Xi said this is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. He said that some (unnamed) political figures in the United States were making erroneous judgments by calling for a new cold war, this time between China and the United States. Whether Xi meant to finger the Democrats, or some of us sitting on the US side of the table, I don't know, but Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump's exact words, but the government's prepublication review process has decided otherwise.
  • The United States of America and the Emperor of China cordially recognize the inherent and inalienable right of man to change his home and allegiance, and also the mutual advantage of the free migration and emigration of their citizens and subjects respectively from the one country to the other, for purposes of curiosity, of trade, or as permanent residents. The high contracting parties, therefore, join in reprobating any other than an entirely voluntary emigration for these purposes. They consequently agree to pass laws making it a penal offence for a citizen of the United States or Chinese subjects to take Chinese subjects either to the United States or to any other foreign country, or for a Chinese subject or citizen of the United States to take citizens of the United States to China or to any other foreign country, without their free and voluntary consent respectively.
President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu look out over the Rose Garden after meeting in the Oval Office Thursday.


  • I'm not one of these people that believes that conflict with China is inevitable or likely. It's certainly not desirable. But there is a tendency in parts of Chinese thinking which says, ‍'‍We need not only to be an important power in the region, we need to dominate the region!‍'‍. That's an impulse that the United States naturally will as it has in so many ways over the last seventy years, provide a counterweight to. Because we're the anchor there... The American approach is not to dominate... The system that we have promoted for security and also commerce in Asia for seventy years is one in which everyone gets to rise and prosper. Think about the history, there... Think about the history in which Japan recovered from World War II and became a great economic powerhouse, then South Korea, then Taiwan, then Southeast Asia. Today, China and India. Now, why was that? What was the security anchor underneath all of that. The answer is it has been the pivotal role of the United States and that's a role we intend to keep, to continue to play and if the Chinese actually think about it and many of them do, they know that's the environment in which China has gotten to find its own way from poverty and isolation back in Mao's day to where they are today.


  • Back when China and America were the best of friends — or at least when their economic relationship seemed almost symbiotic — Moritz Schularick and I came up with the idea of “Chimerica,” which unlike the rival “G2” had the advantage of being a pun on the word “chimera,” signalling that we didn’t think it could last. Well, Chimerica now looks well and truly dead. But what is taking its place? Cold Wok? Sweet and Sour War? The hunt for a catch-phrase continues. Actually, I’m not sure why I bother. In the end, it too will probably be Made in China.
    • Niall Ferguson, "From trade war to tech war", Boston Globe, February 4, 2019.
  • Cold War scholars disagree over whether the United States lost an opportunity in 1949–1950 to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), particularly when its closest ally risked its ire and hastened to do so. The Attlee government, concerned over Hong Kong’s future, spurred by realist sentiment in the Commonwealth, and wishing to have a “foot in the door” when Sino-Soviet tensions would inevitably escalate, announced on January 6, 1950, its willingness to grant de jure recognition. Although France held back out of fear of Beijing’s threat to Indochina, two other NATO allies (Denmark and Norway) and three European neutrals (Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland) joined India, Indonesia, and Burma and ten communist governments in recognizing the PRC in 1950. The United States stood back because of powerful political reasons—the widespread support for the exiled Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in Congress, the press, and the churches—but also as a result of conflicting signals from Beijing. In May 1949, a few months before the communists’ victory, Zhou Enlai, Mao’s chief aide and one of the leading members of the Chinese Communist Party, had sent a conciliatory message to the US through a third party, but Truman’s dilatory response drew a rebuff from Beijing. One month later came an unofficial invitation to US ambassador John Leighton Stuart to hold talks with Zhou and Mao. But while this offer hung in the air, the Chinese were detaining the US consul general in Mukden on trumped-up charges of espionage.
    • Carole C. Fink, The Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 76
  • Both sides, wary of the other and divided within, could not move forward until the verdict of Mao’s success was delivered. The Chinese leadership was still distrustful of American imperialism and hamstrung by its pro-Soviet faction. America’s leaders, skeptical over uncovering a new Tito, feared manipulation by Beijing and were concerned over the actions of the third very interested player, the Soviet Union. Moscow, with good reason to fear another heretic, put extreme pressure on Mao to declare his solidarity. The Chinese communist leader, whose exact sentiments cannot be known, undoubtedly bristled at the Kremlin’s behavior, but he could not ignore Stalin’s stranglehold over Manchuria or his own ideological commitment to Marxist unity. On June 30, 1949, Mao announced that China was “Leaning to One Side” and intended to ally itself with “the Soviet Union, with the People’s Democracies, and with the proletariat and the broad masses of the people in all other countries and form an international united front.” One day later, Secretary of State Acheson vetoed Stuart’s trip to Beijing. Once the PRC was established, Washington chose a pragmatic policy between the two extremes of open hostility and conciliation. Combining balance-of-power concerns, ideological aversion, and fears for the safety of Chiang’s exile government in Taiwan, the United States refused recognition of the PRC and blocked its seating in the United Nations, but Washington did not stop others from opening embassies in Beijing or from breaking relations with Chiang Kai-shek. Nonetheless, the Chinese revolution (occurring soon after the explosion of the Soviet atomic bomb) intensified the Truman administration’s fears of communist expansion in Asia. Alarmed over the Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh’s February 1950 mission to Moscow, the Soviet decision to recognize his government, and Chinese support for the Viet Minh insurgency against French colonial rule, the United States swallowed its anti-imperialist sentiments and cast its lot with the Paris-backed puppet emperor Bao Dai.
    • Carole C. Fink, The Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 77
  • It’s for these reasons that the erosion in U.S.-China relations goes beyond our increasingly sharp disagreements over Taiwan. It is rooted in the fact that just when trust, and its absence, became much bigger factors in international affairs and commerce, China changed its trajectory. It made itself a less trusted partner right when the most important technology for the 21st century — semiconductors — required unprecedented degrees of trust to manufacture and more and more devices and services became deep and dual use.


  • It is a national disgrace that having excluded Chinese immigration by law, the hundred thousand Chinese who are so unlucky as to be caught in the country are outraged by foreign mobs, while the government politely regrets that it can do nothing.


  • Simon: Thirty years later, is China more free, less free?
  • Kaixi: China is absolutely - went into a opposite direction from what we have demanded 30 years ago. It's become one of the place that has the least freedom. And, no, it's less free, of course. And then thinking of - I'm a Uighur, myself. And you probably know that - let's see...
  • Simon: Yeah.
  • Kaixi: ...The concentration camp in Xinjiang, my home country - that over a million people - and some estimate two millions - were in concentration camp in 21st century. So no. Today, China is one land that has the least freedom in, again, 21st century.
  • Simon: The United States, of course, is now involved in a trade dispute with China. Should the United States make human rights and, even specifically, those detention camps for the Uighur people an issue between the U.S. and China?
  • Kaixi: Absolutely. You know, I have been blaming the West in the last, you know, three decades. You know, we saw it back in Tiananmen. You know, we fought for democracy, and then government answered us with massacre. And then we flee to countries like United States. Democracy - we came home, but then the support we expected wasn't there. We feel betrayed.


  • China faces a worrisome imbalance of intellectual trade with the United States. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Chinese know less about the United States than Americans know about China. Most Chinese students and scholars interested in the United States concentrate either on English language and literature or on Sino-American diplomatic history and policy studies... By contrast, Americans have done surveys, oral histories, and archival research in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences all across China, including such sensitive areas as Tibet and Xinjiang. Since China's opening to the West, 30 years ago, Americans have acquired remarkably detailed insights about nearly every aspect of traditional and contemporary China... The relative thinness of China's grasp of the American way of life should not be surprising. The serious study of the United States is still young, and China has lacked the resources to look beyond practical and immediate issues such as language, business, law, and diplomacy.


  • Today in both Beijing and Washington there are those who say that a conflict between China and the United States is inevitable. If they look for signs of course they can find them. A project at Harvard University argues for something called the Thucydides Trap. Named after the author of the classic on the Peloponnesian War, it takes his famous line about the growth of Athens’s power and the fear in Sparta leading to war and elevates it into a rule which, so it is argued, nearly always holds true: when a rising power threatens an established one, war is likely. Since that conclusion depends on a selective interpretation of examples from the past, it has and will continue to provide much scope for experts to disagree.


US political scientist Joseph S. Nye Jr. at Chatham House.
  • Cooperation is difficult in the absence of communication.
    • Joseph Nye, Understanding International Conflicts - An Introduction to Theory and History (Sixth Edition), Chapter 1, Is There an Enduring Logic of Conflict in World Politics?, p. 16.




  • From a Chinese point of view, an electoral system that produces somebody like Trump — utterly inexperienced in governance but a skilled demagogue — is an absurdity, the equivalent of picking a major company’s CEO through a horse race. In China, leaders need to be carefully chosen, groomed, and pushed, gaining experience at every level of the Communist Party system before being anointed for the top job. That comes amid a flurry of brutally nasty and corrupt internal struggles at each level, mind you... Although China regularly trashes the US, the country’s growth has been dependent, ironically enough, on a strong, stable and prosperous United States willing to trade with the world. Globalization, as Chinese authors have repeatedly argued in the last few months, is vital for a country that needs the markets of others to keep pushing its population into the middle class and achieve the dream of being a “moderately prosperous” country by 2020... China and the United States have often been compared to the two wings of the global economy; if one goes, they spiral down together.
  • In the case of China, selective repression replaced mass terror as soon as Deng's economic reforms began...the post Mao regime's use of selective repression grew increasingly sophisticated as well, especially in the 1990s. Instead of simply brutalizing its opponents through incarceration or worse, the state security apparatus has skillfully employed a wide range of tactics to intimidate, control and neutralize key political activists. Many leading dissidents were offered a stark choice:either exile or long prison terms. Many, such as Wei Jingsheng, Wang Juntao and Wang Dan, were forced into exile in the United States. This tactic has successfully decapitated China's fledging dissident movement and even allowed China's government to deflect international criticisms of its human rights practices.
    • Minxin Pei, China's Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy (2008) pp.82 ISBN: 9780674027541
  • When the thirteen stripes and stars first appeared at Canton, much curiosity was excited among the people. News was circulated that a strange ship had arrived from the further end of the world, bearing a flag 'as beautiful as a flower'. Every body went to see the kwa kee chuen, or 'flower flagship'. This name at once established itself in the language, and America is now called the kwa kee kwoh, the 'flower flag country', and an American, kwa kee kwoh yin, 'flower flag countryman', a more complimentary designation than that of 'red headed barbarian', the name first bestowed upon the Dutch.


President Roosevelt in his private office at the White House, Washington
  • We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in a scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk, busying ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day, until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of un-warlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities. If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world.


  • The US is a force for division, not for cooperation... The US lost its step on 5G, which is a critical part of the new digital economy. And Huawei was taking a greater and greater share of global markets... The US concocted in my opinion, the view that Huawei is a global threat. And has leaned very hard on US allies... to try to break the relations with Huawei... Do I believe that China could do more to ease fears that are very real? I do.... The big choice frankly is in China's hands. If China is cooperative, if it engages in diplomacy, regional cooperation and multilateralism…. then I think that Asia has an incredibly bright future.
  • I have said on another occasion that in the twentieth-century Western democracy has not won any major war by itself; each time it shielded itself with an ally possessing a powerful land army, whose philosophy it did not question. In World War II against Hitler, instead of winning the conflict with its own forces, which would certainly have been sufficient, Western democracy raised up another enemy, one that would prove worse and more powerful, since Hitler had neither the resources nor the people, nor the ideas with broad appeal, nor such a large number of supporters in the West—a fifth column—as the Soviet Union possessed. Some Western voices already have spoken of the need of a protective screen against hostile forces in the next world conflict; in this case, the shield would be China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any country in the world. First of all, it is again a doomed alliance with evil; it would grant the United States a respite, but when at a later date China with its billion people would turn around armed with American weapons, America itself would fall victim to a Cambodia-style genocide.
  • If the Chinese come here, they will come for citizenship or merely for labor. If they come for citizenship, then in this desire do they give a pledge of loyalty to our institutions; and where is the peril in such vows? They are peaceful and industrious; how can their citizenship be the occasion of solicitude?


Donald Trump: I have, and--
Joe Kernen: --are there worries about a pandemic at this point?
Donald Trump: No. Not at all. And-- we're-- we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's—going to be just fine.
Joe Kernen: Okay. And President Xi-- there's just some-- talk in China that maybe the transparency isn't everything that it's going to be. Do you trust that we're going to know everything we need to know from China?
Donald Trump: I do. I do. I have a great relationship with President Xi. We just signed probably the biggest deal ever made. It certainly has the potential to be the biggest deal ever made. And-- it was a very interesting period of time time.
Joe Kernen: Yeah. Let’s get into that--
Donald Trump: But we got it done, and-- no, I do. I think-- the relationship is very, very good.
  • Just had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China. He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus. He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days. Nothing is easy, but he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone. Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!
  • The delays the WHO experienced in declaring a public health emergency cost valuable time tremendous amounts of time; more time was lost in the delay it took to get a team of international experts and to examine the outbreak which we wanted to do which they should have done. The inability of the WHO to obtain virus samples to this date has deprived the scientific community of essential data. New data that emerges across the world on a daily basis points to the unreliability of the initial reports and the world received all sorts of false information about transmission and mortality. The silence of the WHO on the disappearance of scientific researchers and doctors and new restrictions on the sharing of research into the origins of COVID-19 in the country of origin is deeply concerning especially when we put up by far the largest amount of money, not even close. Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained as a source with very little death, very little death, and certainly very little death by comparison. This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage. Instead the WHO willingly took China's assurances to face value, and they took it just at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government, even praising China for its so-called transparency. I don't think so. The WHO pushed China's misinformation about the virus, saying it was not communicable, and there was no need for travel bans. They told us when we put on our travel ban a very strong travel ban, there was no need to do it. Don't do it; they actually fought us. The WHO's reliance on China's disclosures likely caused a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide, and it may be much more than that.


  • Beijing warns — or threatens — that recognizing Taiwan “will backfire” on the international community. Washington long has been paralyzed on the Taiwan issue for fear of disrupting the delicate sensibilities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and harming U.S.-China relations. But the pandemic has disrupted all that for the world: Decoupling is ongoing, Beijing’s strident responses are backfiring, and China is increasingly isolated, needing most export markets and diplomatic partners to revive its economy and regain international credibility.


  • The social systems of China and the United States are fundamentally different, and there exist great differences between the Chinese Government and the United States Government. However, these differences should not hinder China and the United States from establishing normal state relations on the basis of the Five Principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence; still less should they lead to war. As early as 1955 the Chinese Government publicly stated that the Chinese people do not want to have a war with the United States and that the Chinese Government is willing to sit down and enter into negotiations with the United States Government. This is a policy which we have pursued consistently. We have taken note of the fact that in his speech before setting out for China President Nixon on his part said that “what we must do is to find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war.” We hope that, through a frank exchange of views between our two sides to gain a clearer notion of our differences and make efforts to find common ground, a new start can be made in the relations between our two countries.
    • Zhou Enlai, February 21, 1972, as quoted in Historic Documents of 1972. Washington, DC: CQ Press.