A Brief History on China and US’ Emerging Cold War

Aug 5, 2020

The relationship between the US and China has been complex since the 18th century, but it has progressively deteriorated in recent months. The power players stand side to side in their economic strength. The USA is the world’s largest economy at $21.44 trillion nominal GDP, and China right behind it at $14.14 trillion nominal GDP.

The recent tensions between the two superpowers have alarmed foreign relations representatives. Four decades ago, during his 1972 visit to China, US President Richard Nixon stabilized the relations between the two counties. Since then, the relations have been somewhat solid… until recently.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, recently said, “We must admit a hard truth that should guide us in the years and decades to come: that if we want to have a free 21st century and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done. We must not continue it, and we must not return to it.”

These comments come after the USA order China to shut down its consulate in Houston, which led China to do the same to the US consulate in Chengdu. But what escalated the deterioration of these relations?

Trump’s Tariffs

Trump’s administration has continuously repeated that the trade practices between the USA and China are unfair. Upon getting elected, Donald Trump imposed tariffs, which are a tax on imports, in order to reduce the US trade deficit. This, in turn, triggered upset trading partners to retaliate and set tariffs on US goods too. The tariffs were imposed on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods such as machinery parts, medical devices, and electronics.

The tariffs implemented by Trump, as well as the trade war they’ve created, have been highly criticized. Studies have proven that Trump’s tariffs have adversely affected the US GDP. China accused Donald Trump of starting “the largest trade war in economic history to date” and countered by imposing 25% tariffs on $34 billion worth of US goods.

Since the tariffs were imposed in 2018, the two superpowers have been negotiating continuously to solve the issues. The first signs of a ‘truce’ became evident on January 15th, 2020, when both sides signed the first part of the agreement to lift the restrictions and boost China’s purchases of US products. At present, the tariffs remain in place.

The US and the South China Sea Islands

An ongoing dispute regarding the sovereignty of the South China Sea has a been caused a prominent dent in the relations of the two nations. The US insists that China’s attempt to reclaim the land is illegal states that it opposes “any further militarization” of the territory. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has asserted China’s claims of the South China Sea as “completely unlawful.”

In turn, China had accused the United States of having “ulterior motives” when in July 2020 it sent two aircraft carrier strike groups, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz, for military exercises South China Sea. This move interfered with drills held by China in the area.

“The US intentionally sent a military deployment for large-scale exercises in the South China Sea, and to show off its muscle. They have ulterior motives. The US is creating division among nations in the region and militarizing the South China Sea,” said the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

A Brief History on China and US' Emerging Cold War

“The US intentionally sent a military deployment for large-scale exercises in the South China Sea, and to show off its muscle. They have ulterior motives. The US is creating division among nations in the region and militarizing the South China Sea,” said the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Relations between the two nations were heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when the USA government referred to the virus as a ‘Chinese virus’ and blamed China’s pandemic. The pandemic’s effects on the global economy have been substantial, with global indices plummeting and oil prices turning negative. Donald Trump blamed China for its ‘slow response’ to the virus when it first emerged in Wuhan. China, in turn, accused U.S soldiers of planting the virus in Wuhan.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been over 18 million cases and over half a million deaths. The global disaster has caused devastation, a worldwide recession locked down most countries across the world. The U.S was the only nation to directly accuse China of causing the pandemic.

“China has seen the coronavirus as an opportunity to exploit US weaknesses, and so China might be tempted to resolve territorial disputes through force. I think there’s a real possibility of miscalculation by Beijing in assuming the US won’t or can’t respond militarily,” said Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

COVID-19 started in China in late December 2019, and by early spring 2020, it had scattered across the globe.

 

Huawei, TikTok, and Chinese Surveillance

Amidst the ongoing trade war between China and the US, the Trump administration restricted the commercial relationship between the U.S and the tech company Huawei. The US accused Huawei of espionage through its 5G network equipment, which was not confirmed but lead to forbidding American companies to conduct business with various Chinese vendors. This caused Huawei to fire over 600 employees in the USA and move its research center from Santa Clara to Canada.
In mid-2020, TikTok was similarly accused of being a ‘back door’ to give private American data to The PRC (People’s Republic of China). The US believes that TikTok threatens its sovereignty and security and should be banned. Microsoft offered to buy the US branch, but negotiations have yet to be confirmed. Should they not be solved, TikTok will be banned in the USA by mid-September.