China–United States relations, more often known as U.S.–Chinese relations, Chinese–U.S. relations, or Sino-American relations, refer to international relations between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China (PRC). The partnership between China and the United States, in which each nation regards the other as a potential adversary as well as a strategic partner, has been described by world leaders and academics as the world's most important bilateral relationship of the century.
As of 2017[update], the United States has the world's largest economy and China the second largest. The International Monetary Fund estimates that China's economy has overtaken that of United States in terms of GDP (PPP) in 2014.
Relations between the two countries have generally been stable with some periods of open conflict, most notably during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Currently, China and the United States have mutual political, economic, and security interests, including, but not limited to, the prevention of terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, although there are unresolved concerns relating to the role of democracy in government in China and human rights in both respective countries. China is the second largest foreign creditor of the United States behind Japan. The two countries remain in dispute over territorial issues in the South China Sea.
The election and ascension of current U.S. President Donald Trump has considerably strained US-China relations with multiple news outlets anticipating potential trade or military conflict between the United States and China. This is largely due to comments made during his presidential campaign citing Chinese currency manipulation and outsourcing of American trade to the China.
Public opinion of the other country tends to fluctuate around 40 to 50 percent favorability. As of 2015, China's public opinion of the U.S. is at 44%, while the United States' public opinion of China is somewhat lower at 38%. The highest recorded favorable opinion of the United States was at 58% (2010) and the lowest at 38% (2007). Conversely, the highest recorded favorable opinion of China was at 52% (2006) and the lowest at 35% (2014).
As of April 2017, ongoing maritime disputes in the South China Sea have strained relations between the two. America has conducted freedom of navigation patrols in the region to underscore the US' position that the artificial islands constructed by China are located in international waters. The latest case of China US strained relations has been of Chinese warships seizing US warships in the South China Sea while China has warned that American interference in its regional affairs could lead to military conflict between the two countries.
Formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the Chinese Empire began about June 16, 1844 as the countries engaged in the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Wangxia. From 1784 consuls were sent to Guangzhou, the treaty port open to traders from the United States.
After the Treaty of Nanking at the end of the First Opium War in 1842, many Chinese ports were forced to open to foreign trade, which threatened American trade in the region. President John Tyler, however, secured the 1844 Treaty of Wanghia, which gave Americans the right of extraterritoriality, and placed American trade on par with British trade. This treaty effectively ended the era of the Old China Trade, giving to the rise of the United States as an emergent power. During the Second Opium War, American and Qing forces briefly clashed at the Battle of the Barrier Forts, the first instance of military engagement between the United States and China.
After China's defeat in the Second Opium War, the then emperor of China, Xianfeng, fled Beijing. His brother Yixin, the Prince Gong, ratified the Treaty of Tientsin in the Convention of Peking on October 18, 1860. This treaty stipulated, among other terms, that along with Britain, France, and Russia, the United States would have the right to station administrative offices in Beijing, which was closed prior to the war.
Some Americans advocated for the annexation of Taiwan from China. Aboriginals on Taiwan often attacked and massacred shipwrecked western sailors. In 1867, during the Rover incident, Taiwanese aborigines attacked shipwrecked American sailors, killing the entire crew. They subsequently skirmished against and defeated a retaliatory expedition by the American military and killed another American during the battle.
In 1868, the Qing government appointed Anson Burlingame as their emissary to the United States. Burlingame toured the country to build support for equitable treatment for China and for Chinese emigrants. The 1868 Burlingame Treaty embodied these principles. In 1871, the Chinese Educational Mission brought the first of two groups of 120 Chinese boys to study in the United States. They were led by Yung Wing, the first Chinese man to graduate from an American university.
During the California Gold Rush and the construction of the transcontinental railroad, large numbers of Chinese emigrated to the US, spurring animosity from American citizens. After being forcibly driven from the mines, most Chinese settled in Chinatowns in cities such as San Francisco, taking up low-end wage labor, such as restaurant and cleaning work. With the post-Civil War economy in decline by the 1870s, anti-Chinese animosity became politicized by labor leader Denis Kearney and his party, as well as by the California governor John Bigler. Both blamed Chinese coolies for depressed wage levels.
In the first significant restriction on free immigration in US history, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act on May 6, 1882, following revisions made in 1880 to the Burlingame Treaty. Those revisions allowed the United States to suspend immigration, and Congress acted quickly to implement the suspension of Chinese immigration and exclude Chinese skilled and unskilled laborers from entering the country for ten years, under penalty of imprisonment and deportation. The ban was renewed a number of times, lasting for over 60 years.
The American China Development Company, founded in 1895 by J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, sought to provide the American capital and management that would generate a rapid industrialization of China. It started building the Hankow-Canton Railroad, to link central and southern China. It only managed to finish 30 miles of line. Americans soon grew disillusioned, and sold out to a rival Belgian syndicate. On the whole, the American dream of getting rich by investing in China or selling to hundreds of millions of Chinese was almost always a failure. Standard Oil did succeed in selling kerosene to the China market, but few others made a profit.
In 1899, a movement of Chinese nationalists calling themselves the Society of Right and Harmonious Fists started a violent revolt in China, referred to by Westerners as the Boxer Rebellion, against foreign influence in trade, politics, religion, and technology. The campaigns took place from November 1899 to September 7, 1901, during the final years of Manchu rule in China under the Qing dynasty.
The uprising began as an anti-foreign, anti-imperialist, peasant-based movement in northern China, in response to foreign westerners seizing land from locals, concession grabbing, and granting immunity to criminals who converted to Catholicism. The insurgents attacked foreigners, who were building railroads and violating Feng shui, and Christians, who were held responsible for the foreign domination of China. In June 1900, the Boxers entered Peking, and ransacked the area around the Foreign Legations. On June 21, in response to the Western attack on the Chinese Dagu Forts Empress Dowager Cixi declared war against all Western powers. Diplomats, foreign civilians, soldiers, and Chinese Christians were besieged during the Siege of the International Legations for 55 days. A coalition called the Eight-Nation Alliance comprising Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States rushed 20,000 troops to their rescue. The multinational forces were initially defeated by a Chinese Muslim army at the Battle of Langfang, but the second attempt in the Gaselee Expedition was successful due to internal rivalries among the Chinese forces.
The Chinese government was forced to indemnify the victims and make many additional concessions. Subsequent reforms implemented after the rebellion contributed to the end of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the modern Chinese Republic. The United States played a secondary but significant role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion, largely due to the presence of US ships and troops deployed in the Philippines since the American conquest of the Spanish–American and Philippine–American War. Within the United States Armed Forces, the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion was known as the China Relief Expedition.
The Chinese paid indemnities to each of the powers. The US used its $11 million share to promote cultural and educational exchanges and help China modernize. A number of schools were established in China, such as Tsinghua College in Peking.
In the 1890s the major world powers (France, the Britain, Germany, Japan, and Russia) began carving out spheres of influence for themselves in China, which was then under the Qing dynasty. The United States demanded this practice to end so that all nations could trade on an equal footing. In 1899, US Secretary of State John Hay sent diplomatic letters to these nations, asking them to guarantee the territorial and administrative integrity of China and to not interfere with the free use of treaty ports within their respective spheres of influence. The major powers evaded commitment, saying they could not agree to anything until the other powers had consented first. Hay took this as acceptance of his proposal, which came to be known as the Open Door Policy.
While respected internationally, the Open Door Policy was ignored by Russia and Japan when they encroached in Manchuria. The US protested Russia's actions. Japan and Russia fought the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, in which the US mediated a peace. Japan also presented a further challenge to the policy with its Twenty-One Demands in 1915 made on the then-Republic of China. Japan also made secret treaties with the Allies promising Japan the German territories in China. In 1931, Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria. The United States along with other countries condemned the action, leading to US support for China in its war with Japan after 1937.
After the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, the United States government recognized the Republic of China (ROC) government as the sole and legitimate government of China despite a number of governments ruling various parts of China. China was reunified by a single government, ROC, led by the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1928. The first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for writing about China was an American, born in the United States but raised in China, Pearl S. Buck, whose 1938 Nobel lecture was titled The Chinese Novel.
The outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 saw aid flow into the Republic of China, from the United States under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A series of Neutrality Acts had been passed in the US with the support of isolationists who forbade American aid to countries at war. Because the Second Sino-Japanese War was undeclared, however, Roosevelt denied that a state of war existed in China and proceeded to send aid to Chiang.
American public sympathy for the Chinese was aroused by reports from missionaries, novelists such as Pearl S. Buck, and Time Magazine of Japanese brutality in China, including reports surrounding the Nanking Massacre, also known as the 'Rape of Nanking'. Japanese-American relations were further soured by the USS Panay incident during the bombing of Nanjing, in which a gunboat of the US Navy was accidentally sunk by Japanese aircraft. Roosevelt demanded an apology and compensation from the Japanese, which was received, but relations between the two countries continued to deteriorate. American public opinion overwhelmingly favored China and denounced Japan.
The United States formally declared war on Japan in December 1941 following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Roosevelt administration gave massive amounts of aid to Chiang's beleaguered government, now headquartered in Chungking. Madame Chiang Kai-shek, who had been educated in the United States, addressed the US Congress and toured the country to rally support for China. Congress amended the Chinese Exclusion Act and Roosevelt moved to end the unequal treaties by establishing the Treaty for Relinquishment of Extraterritorial Rights in China. However, the perception that Chiang's government was unable to effectively resist the Japanese or that he preferred to focus more on defeating the Communists grew. China Hands such as Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell—who spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese—argued that it was in American interest to establish communication with the Communists to prepare for a land-based counteroffensive invasion of Japan. The Dixie Mission, which began in 1943, was the first official American contact with the Communists. Other Americans, such as Claire Lee Chennault, argued for air power and supported Chiang's position. In 1944, successfully demanded that Stilwell be recalled. General Albert Coady Wedemeyer replaced Stilwell, and Patrick J. Hurley became ambassador.
After World War II ended in 1945, the hostility between the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China exploded into open civil war. The KMT lost effective control of mainland China in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. In the China White Paper in August 1949 drafted by the US State Department that the United States was announcing the hands-off policy to the ROC in Taiwan to the upcoming military attacks from the People's Liberation Army. Chinese Military forces under Chiang Kai-shek went to the island of Taiwan to accept the surrender of Japanese troops, thus beginning the military occupation of Taiwan. American general George Marshall spent most of the years 1946 in China trying to broker a truce between the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China in 1946, but he failed.
In February 1948, Marshall, now the Secretary of State, testified to Congress in secret session that he had realized from the start that the Nationalists could never defeat the Communists in the field, so some sort of negotiated settlement was necessary or else the United States would have to fight the war. He warned:
The Kuomintang (Nationalist) cause declined until 1949, when the Communists emerged victorious and drove the Nationalists from the Chinese mainland onto Taiwan and other islands. Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China in mainland China, while Taiwan and other islands are still retained under the Republic of China rule to this day.
After the Korean War broke out, the Truman administration resumed economic and military aid to the ROC and neutralized Taiwan Strait by United States Seventh Fleet to stop a Communist invasion of Formosa. Until the US formally recognized China in 1979, Washington provided ROC with financial grants based on the Foreign Assistance Act, Mutual Security Act and Act for International Development enacted by the US Congress. A separate Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty was signed between the two governments of US and ROC in 1954 and lasted until 1979.
The U.S. State Department's official position in 1959 was:
On January 1, 1979, the United States changed its diplomatic recognition of China from Taipei to Beijing. In the U.S.-PRC Three Communiqués that announced the change, the United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. Since then, the ROC has often been referred to as 'Taiwan' to avoid confusion.
Meanwhile, the U.S. negotiated with Taiwan on what the change meant. Trade continued and the U.S. provided military security.
The United States did not formally recognize the People's Republic of China (PRC) for 30 years after its founding. Instead, the US maintained diplomatic relations with the Republic of China government on Taiwan, recognizing it as the sole legitimate government of China.
However, the Taiwan-based Republic of China government did not trust the United States. An enemy of the Chiang family, K. C. Wu, was removed from his position as governor of Taiwan by Chiang Ching-kuo and fled to America in 1953. Chiang Kai-shek, president of the Republic of China, suspected that the American CIA was engineering a coup with Sun Li-jen, an American-educated Chinese man who attended the Virginia Military Institute, with the goal of making Taiwan an independent state. Chiang placed Sun under house arrest in 1955.
Chiang Ching-kuo, educated in the Soviet Union, initiated Soviet-style military organization in the Republic of China military, reorganizing and Sovietizing the political officer corps and surveillance. Kuomintang party activities were propagated throughout the military. Sun Li-jen opposed this action.
As the People's Liberation Army moved south to complete the conquest of mainland China in 1949, the American embassy followed Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China government to Taipei, while US consular officials remained in mainland China. However, the People's Republic of China was hostile to the American presence, and all US personnel were withdrawn from the mainland in early 1950. In December 1950, the People's Republic seized all American assets and properties, totaling $196.8 million, after the US had frozen Chinese assets in America following the PRC's entry into the Korean War in November.
Truman administration announced on January 5, 1950, that the United States would not become involved in any dispute about Taiwan Strait, and that he would not intervene in the event of an attack by the PRC, but these plans were quickly undone when the Korean War began on 25 June with the invasion of the US-backed Republic of Korea by the communist Democratic People's Republic of Korea. A US-led international coalition of troops drove the North Korean forces from the South. In response to the Soviet-backed North Korean invasion of South Korea, the United Nations Security Council was convened and passed UNSC Resolution 82, declaring war on North Korea unanimously. The resolution was adopted mainly because the Soviet Union, a veto-wielding power, had been boycotting UN proceedings since January, in protest that the Republic of China and not the People's Republic of China held a permanent seat on the council.
The American-led allied forces pushed the invading Korean People's Army back into North Korea, past the North-South border at the 38th parallel and began to approach the Yalu River on the China-North Korea border. Chinese warnings for the UN forces to not venture too close to their border were ignored, and in November, a massive Chinese counterattack was launched. The Chinese army struck in the west along the Chongchon River and completely overran several South Korean divisions, successfully landing a heavy blow to the flank of the remaining forces. The defeat of the US Eighth Army resulted in the longest retreat of any American military unit in history. Both sides sustained heavy casualties before the allied forces were able to push Chinese forces back, near the original division. In late March 1951, after the Chinese army had moved large numbers of new forces near the Korean border, US bomb loading pits at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa were made operational. On April 5, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff released orders for immediate retaliatory attacks using nuclear weapons against Manchurian bases to prevent new Chinese troops from entering the battles or bombing attacks originating from those bases. On the same day, Truman gave his approval for transfer of nine Mark IV nuclear capsules "to the Air Force's Ninth Bomb Group, the designated carrier of the weapons," signing an order to use them against Chinese and Korean targets. Two years of continued fighting ended in a stalemate, until the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953. Since then, a divided Korea has become an important factor in US-China relations. Also, the entry of China in the Korean War caused a major change in US policy from minimal support of the Nationalist government in Taiwan to Taiwan as protected by the United States.
China's involvement in the Vietnam War began in 1949, when China was reunified under Communist rule. The People's Republic of China provided resources and training to Communists in Vietnam, and in the summer of 1962, Chairman Mao Zedong agreed to supply Hanoi with 90,000 rifles and guns free of charge. After the launch of the America's Operation "Rolling Thunder", China sent anti-aircraft units and engineering battalions to North Vietnam to repair the damage caused by American bombing, rebuild roads and railroads, and perform other engineering work, freeing the North Vietnamese army units for combat in the South. The United States lost 58,159 troops in the Vietnam War.
The Chinese presence in North Vietnam was well-known to US officials, and can explain a number of factors surrounding American strategy in the conflict. In particular, President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ruled out the possibility of a ground invasion of North Vietnam early on, for fear of repeating the Korean War but with a now nuclear-armed China. However, it is unclear exactly what Beijing's reaction to a US invasion of North Vietnam would have been—Mao Zedong reportedly told journalist Edgar Snow in 1965 that China had no intention of fighting to save the Hanoi regime and would not engage the US military unless it crossed into Chinese territory. On other occasions, Mao expressed confidence that the People's Liberation Army could take on the US again, much like it did in Korea. Whatever Chinese plans might have been, the Johnson Administration was unwilling to tempt fate and so ground troops never crossed into North Vietnam.
The United States continued to work to prevent the PRC from taking China's seat in the United Nations and encouraged its allies not to deal with the PRC. The United States placed an embargo on trading with the PRC, and encouraged allies to follow it. The PRC developed nuclear weapons in 1964 and, as later declassified documents revealed, President Lyndon B. Johnson considered preemptive attacks to halt its nuclear program. He ultimately decided the measure carried too much risk and it was abandoned.
For most of the 22 years between 1949 and 1971, Sino-US relations were uniformly hostile, with Mao Zedong frequently referring to the United States as "the most dangerous imperialist power", and the U.S. frequently attacked by Chinese propaganda. President Kennedy believed that US policy towards China was "nonsensical", and he considered reestablishing diplomatic ties in his second term. However, Kennedy's assassination in late 1963, followed by the Vietnam War and Cultural Revolution, ended any possibility of normalized relations with Beijing for years.
Despite this official non-recognition, the United States and the People's Republic of China held 136 meetings at the ambassadorial level beginning in 1954 and continuing until 1970, first in Geneva and in 1958–1970 in Warsaw.
The Cultural Revolution brought about near-complete isolation of China from the outside world and vocal denunciations of both U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism.
Beginning in 1967, the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission established the China Claims Program, in which American citizens could denominate the sum total of their lost assets and property following the Communist seizure of foreign property in 1950. American companies were reluctant to invest in China despite (future Chairman) Deng Xiaoping's reassurances of a stable business environment.
The end of the 1960s brought a period of transformation. For China, when American president Johnson decided to wind down the Vietnam war in 1968, it gave China an impression that the US had no interest of expanding in Asia anymore while the USSR became a more serious threat as it intervened in Czechoslovakia to displace a communist government and might well interfere in China.
This became an especially important concern for the People's Republic of China after the Sino-Soviet border conflict of 1969. The PRC was diplomatically isolated and the leadership came to believe that improved relations with the United States would be a useful counterbalance to the Soviet threat. Zhou Enlai, the Premier of China, was at the forefront of this effort with the committed backing of Chairman Mao Zedong. In 1969, the United States initiated measures to relax trade restrictions and other impediments to bilateral contact, to which China responded. However, this rapprochement process was stalled by the Vietnam War where China was supporting the enemies of the United States. Communication between Chinese and American leaders, however, was conducted with Pakistan and Poland as intermediaries.
In the United States, academics such as John K. Fairbank and A. Doak Barnett pointed to the need to deal realistically with the Beijing government, while organizations such as the National Committee on United States–China Relations sponsored debates to promote public awareness. Many saw the specter of Communist China behind communist movements in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, but a growing number concluded that if the PRC would align with the US it would mean a major redistribution of global power against the Soviets. Mainland China's market of nearly one billion consumers appealed to American business. Senator J. William Fulbright, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held a series of hearings on the matter.
Richard M. Nixon mentioned in his inaugural address that the two countries were entering an era of negotiation after an era of confrontation. Although Nixon during his 1960 presidential campaign had vociferously supported Chiang Kai-Shek, by the second half of the decade, he increasingly began to speak of there "being no reason to leave China angry and isolated". Nixon's election as president in 1968 was initially met with hostility by Beijing—an editorial in the People's Daily denounced him as "a chieftain whom the capitalist world had turned to out of desperation". Nixon believed it was in the American national interest to forge a relationship with China, even though there were enormous differences between the two countries. He was assisted in this by his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. Domestic politics also entered into Nixon's thinking, as the boost from a successful courting of the PRC could help him in the 1972 American presidential election. He also worried that one of the Democrats would preempt him and go to the PRC before he had the opportunity.
In 1971, an unexpectedly friendly encounter between the American and Chinese ping-pong athletes in Japan opened the way for a visit to China, which Chairman Mao personally approved. In April 1971, the athletes became the first Americans to officially visit China since the communist takeover. The smooth acceptance of this so-called "ping-pong diplomacy" gave confidence to both sides. In July 1971, Henry Kissinger feigned illness while on a trip to Pakistan and did not appear in public for a day. He was actually on a top-secret mission to Beijing to negotiate with Zhou Enlai.
Kissinger and his aides did not receive a warm welcome in Beijing, and the hotel they stayed in was equipped with pamphlets excoriating US imperialism. However, the meeting with Zhou Enlai was productive, and the Chinese premier expressed his hope for improved Sino-US relations. He commented that the US had intentionally isolated China, not vice-versa, and any initiative to restore diplomatic ties had to come from the American side. Zhou spoke of the late President Kennedy's plans to restore relations with China and told Kissinger "We are willing to wait as long as we need to. If these negotiations fail, in time another Kennedy or another Nixon will come along."
On July 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon revealed the mission to the world and that he had accepted an invitation to visit the PRC.
This announcement caused immediate shock around the world. In the United States, some hard-line anti-communists (most notably Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater) denounced the decision, but most public opinion supported the move and Nixon saw the jump in the polls he had been hoping for. Since Nixon had sterling anti-communist credentials he was all but immune to being called "soft on communism." Nixon and his aides wanted to ensure that press coverage offered dramatic imagery. Nixon was particularly eager for strong news coverage.
Within the PRC there was also opposition from left-wing elements. This effort was allegedly led by Lin Biao, head of the military, who died in a mysterious plane crash over Mongolia while trying to defect to the Soviet Union. His death silenced most internal dissent over the visit.
Internationally, reactions varied. In the communist world, the Soviets were very concerned that two major enemies seemed to have resolved their differences, and the new world alignment contributed significantly to the policy of détente. Romania's president Nicolai Ceausescu praised the US initiative as a "move for world peace". Several communist regimes, including Cuba, Albania, and North Vietnam, accused China of "capitulationism to the imperialists". North Korea proclaimed that it was the reverse and that the US had been forced to capitulate to China, having failed to isolate it.
America's European allies and Canada were pleased by the initiative, especially since many of them had already recognized the PRC. In Asia, the reaction was far more mixed. Japan was annoyed that it had not been told of the announcement until fifteen minutes before it had been made, and feared that the Americans were abandoning them in favor of the PRC. A short time later, Japan also recognized the PRC and committed to substantial trade with the continental power. South Korea and South Vietnam were both concerned that peace between the United States and the PRC could mean an end to American support for them against their communist enemies. Throughout the period of rapprochement, both countries had to be regularly assured that they would not be abandoned.
From February 21 to February 28, 1972, President Nixon traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. At the conclusion of his trip, the US and the PRC issued the Shanghai Communiqué, a statement of their respective foreign policy views. In the Communiqué, both nations pledged to work toward the full normalization of diplomatic relations. This did not lead to immediate recognition of the People's Republic of China but 'liaison offices' were established in Beijing and Washington. The US acknowledged the PRC position that all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China. The statement enabled the US and PRC to temporarily set aside the issue of Taiwan and open trade and communication. Also, the US and China both agreed to take action against 'any country' that is to establish 'hegemony' in the Asia-Pacific. On several issues, such as the ongoing conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and Israel, the US and China were unable to reach a common understanding.
Most major anti-US propaganda disappeared in China after the Nixon visit; although there was still occasional criticism of US imperialism, the Soviet Union had definitively become China's arch-foe in the 1970s.
The rapprochement with the United States benefited the PRC immensely and greatly increased its security for the rest of the Cold War. It has been argued that the United States, on the other hand, saw fewer benefits than it had hoped for, inasmuch as China continued to back America's enemies in Hanoi and Pyongyang. Eventually, however, the PRC's suspicion of Vietnam's motives led to a break in Sino-Vietnamese cooperation and, upon the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, the Sino-Vietnamese War. Both China and the United States backed combatants in Africa against Soviet and Cuban-supported movements. The economic benefits of normalization were slow as it would take decades for American products to penetrate the vast Chinese market. While Nixon's China policy is regarded by many as the highlight of his presidency, others such as William Bundy have argued that it provided very little benefit to the United States.
In May 1973, in an effort to build toward formal diplomatic relations, the US and the PRC established the United States Liaison Office (USLO) in Beijing and a counterpart PRC office in Washington. In 1973 to 1978, such distinguished Americans as David K. E. Bruce, George H. W. Bush, Thomas S. Gates, Jr., and Leonard Woodcock served as chiefs of the USLO with the personal rank of ambassador. China made clear that it considered the Soviet Union its chief adversary, and urged the United States to be powerful, thereby distracting Moscow. Liaison officer George Bush concluded, "China keeps wanting us to be strong, wanting us to defend Europe, wanting us to increase our defense budgets, etc." Bush concluded that American engagement was essential to support markets, allies, and stability in Asia and around the world.
President Gerald Ford visited the PRC in 1975 and reaffirmed American interest in normalizing relations with Beijing. Shortly after taking office in 1977, President Jimmy Carter again reaffirmed the goals of the Shanghai Communiqué. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and senior staff member of the National Security Council Michel Oksenberg encouraged Carter to seek full diplomatic and trade relations with China. Although Brzezinksi sought to quickly establish a security relationship with Beijing to counter the Soviet Union, Carter sided with Vance in believing that such a deal would threaten existing U.S.-Soviet relations, including the SALT II negotiations. Thus, the administration decided to cautiously pursue political normalization and not military relations. Vance, Brzezinski, and Oksenberg traveled to Beijing in early 1978 to work with Leonard Woodcock, then head of the liaison office, to lay the groundwork to do so. The United States and the People's Republic of China announced on December 15, 1978 that the two governments would establish diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979.
In the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, dated January 1, 1979, the United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The US reiterated the Shanghai Communiqué's acknowledgment of the Chinese position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of China; Beijing acknowledged that the American people would continue to carry on commercial, cultural, and other unofficial contacts with the people of Taiwan.
Much like the Nixon visit to Beijing six years earlier, the formal establishment of Sino-US ties met with a mixed response from many countries. Taiwan, although fully expecting this step, nonetheless expressed disappointment at having not been consulted first. The reaction of the communist world was similar to 1972, with the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe mostly being noncommittal, Romania welcoming the move, and Cuba and Albania being strongly against it. North Korea issued a statement congratulating "our brotherly neighbors for ending long-hostile relations with the US".
Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping's January 1979 visit to Washington initiated a series of important, high-level exchanges which continued until the spring of 1989. This resulted in many bilateral agreements, especially in the fields of scientific, technological, and cultural interchange, as well as trade relations. Since early 1979, the United States and the PRC have initiated hundreds of joint research projects and cooperative programs under the Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, the largest bilateral program.
On March 1, 1979, the two countries formally established embassies in each other's capitals. In 1979, outstanding private claims were resolved and a bilateral trade agreement was completed. Vice President Walter Mondale reciprocated Vice Premier Deng's visit with an August 1979 trip to China. This visit led to agreements in September 1980 on maritime affairs, civil aviation links, and textile matters, as well as a bilateral consular convention.
Sino-US military cooperation also began in 1979; American arms sales to China were initiated, and in 1981 it was revealed that a joint Sino-US listening post had been operated in Xinjiang, near the Soviet border. Chinese demands for advanced technology from the US were not always met, in part due to opposition from Congressmen who either distrusted technology transfer to a communist nation out of principle, or concern that there was no guarantee that such technology would not end up in the hands of unfriendly third parties. In 1983, the US State Department changed its classification of China to "a friendly, developing nation", thereby increasing the amount of technology and armaments that could be sold. The skepticism of some US Congressmen was not entirely unmerited as China during the 1980s continued to sell arms to Iran and other states that were openly hostile to American interests.
As a consequence of high-level and working-level contacts initiated in 1980, New York City and Beijing become sister cities, US dialogue with the PRC broadened to cover a wide range of issues, including global and regional strategic problems, political-military questions, including arms control, UN, and other multilateral organization affairs, and international narcotics matters.
High-level exchanges continued to be a significant means for developing US-PRC relations in the 1980s. President Ronald Reagan and Premier Zhao Ziyang made reciprocal visits in 1984. Reagan's visit to Beijing went well, however a speech he made criticizing the Soviet Union and praising capitalism, democracy, and freedom of religion was not aired on Chinese state TV. In July 1985, President Li Xiannian traveled to the United States, the first such visit by a PRC head of state. Vice President Bush visited the PRC in October 1985 and opened the US Consulate General in Chengdu, the US's fourth consular post in the PRC. Further exchanges of cabinet-level officials occurred between 1985 and 1989, capped by President Bush's visit to Beijing in February 1989.
Shortly after being elected president in 1980, Ronald Reagan made a speech criticizing the PRC and welcoming restoration of ties with Taiwan. These remarks aroused initial panic in Beijing, but Reagan's advisers quickly apologized for his comments, and the president-elect soon retracted them.
Reagan's first two years in office saw some deterioration in Sino-US relations due to the president's vociferous anti-communism, as well as the inability of the two nations to come to a common understanding over the Korean standoff, the Israel-Palestine conflict, or the Falkland War. In 1982, Deng Xiaoping, in a reiteration of Mao Zedong's "Three Worlds" theory, criticized both the US and Soviet Union for imperialism. In 1983, there were quarrels over a Chinese tennis player, Hu Na, who defected to the US, and over an incident where an Olympic parade float in New York City displayed the flag of Taiwan rather than the PRC's flag.
In the period before the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, a growing number of cultural exchange activities gave the American and Chinese peoples broad exposure to each other's cultural, artistic, and educational achievements. Numerous mainland Chinese professional and official delegations visited the United States each month. Many of these exchanges continued after the suppression of the Tiananmen protests.
The expanding relationship that followed normalization was threatened in 1981 by PRC objections to the level of US arms sales to the Republic of China on Taiwan. Secretary of State Alexander Haig visited China in June 1981 in an effort to resolve Chinese concerns about America's unofficial relations with Taiwan. Vice President Bush visited the PRC in May 1982. Eight months of negotiations produced the US-PRC Joint Communiqué of August 17, 1982. In this third communiqué, the US stated its intention to gradually reduce the level of arms sales to the Republic of China, and the PRC described as a fundamental policy their effort to strive for a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan question. The Taiwan Relations Act made the necessary changes in US domestic law to permit such unofficial relations with Taiwan to flourish. After the announcement of the intention to establish diplomatic relations with China on 15 December 1978, the Republic of China immediately condemned the United States, leading to rampant protests in both Taiwan and in the US.
Following China's violent suppression of political protests in June 1989, the US and other governments enacted a number of measures against China's violation of human rights. The US suspended high-level official exchanges with the PRC and weapons exports from the US to the PRC. The US also imposed a number of economic sanctions. In the summer of 1990, at the G7 Houston summit, the West called for renewed political and economic reforms in mainland China, particularly in the field of human rights.
Tiananmen event disrupted the US-China trade relationship, and US investors' interest in mainland China dropped dramatically. Tourist traffic fell off sharply. The Bush administration denounced the repression and suspended certain trade and investment programs on June 5 and 20, 1989, however Congress was responsible for imposing many of these actions, and the White House itself took a far less critical attitude of Beijing, repeatedly expressing hope that the two countries could maintain normalized relations. Some sanctions were legislated while others were executive actions. Examples include:
After Tiananmen Square, Sino-US relations deteriorated sharply, falling to their worst since the 1960s, with Beijing accusing the US of "a decades-long conspiracy to subvert Chinese socialism". The 2-1/2 years from 1989 to 1992 also witnessed a revival of hard-line Maoist ideologies and increased paranoia by the PRC as communist regimes collapsed in Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, China continued to seek foreign business and investment.
Sino-US military ties and arms sales were abruptly terminated in 1989 and as of 2017 have never been restored.
In 1996, the PRC conducted military exercises in the Taiwan Strait in an apparent effort to intimidate the Republic of China electorate before the pending presidential elections, triggering the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. The United States dispatched two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region. Subsequently, tensions in the Taiwan Strait diminished and relations between the US and the PRC improved, with increased high-level exchanges and progress on numerous bilateral issues, including human rights, nuclear proliferation, and trade. China's paramount leader Jiang Zemin visited the United States in the fall of 1997, the first state visit to the US by a PRC president since 1985. In connection with that visit, the two sides came to a consensus on implementation of their 1985 agreement on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation, as well as a number of other issues. President Clinton visited the PRC in June 1998. He traveled extensively in mainland China, and had direct interaction with the Chinese people, including live speeches and a radio show which allowed the President to convey a sense of American ideals and values. President Clinton was criticized by some, however, for failing to pay adequate attention to human rights abuses in mainland China.
Relations were damaged for a time by the United States bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May 1999, which was stated by the White House to be miscoordination between intelligence and the military, although which some Chinese believed to be deliberate. In any case, Beijing for several days was rocked by massive anti-US demonstrations. By the end of 1999, relations began to gradually improve. In October 1999, the two countries reached an agreement on compensation for families of those who were victims, as well as payments for damages to respective diplomatic properties in Belgrade and China. Sino-US relations in 1999 were also damaged by accusations that a Chinese-American scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory had given US nuclear secrets to Beijing.
In April 2001, a PRC J-8 fighter jet collided with a US EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft flying south of the PRC in what became known as the Hainan Island incident. The EP-3 was able to make an emergency landing on PRC's Hainan Island despite extensive damage; the PRC aircraft crashed with the loss of its pilot, Wang Wei. The crew were detained by the PLA after destroying all classified documents pertaining to the aircraft's operation. It was widely believed that the EP-3 recon aircraft was conducting a spying mission on the PLA before the collision, which however took place over international waters. Following extensive negotiations resulting in the "letter of the two sorries," the crew of the EP-3 was released from imprisonment and allowed to leave the PRC eleven days later. The US aircraft was returned by Beijing three months later in pieces, after which the relationship between the US and the PRC gradually improved once more.
Sino-US relations improved following the plane attacks that happened in New York City and elsewhere in the U.S. in September 2001. Two PRC citizens died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Chinese companies and individuals sent expressions of condolences to their American counterparts. The PRC, itself troubled by Muslim separatists in Xinjiang, offered strong public support for the War on Terror. The PRC voted in favor of UNSCR 1373, publicly supported the coalition campaign in Afghanistan, and contributed $150 million of bilateral assistance to Afghan reconstruction following the defeat of the Taliban. Shortly after 9/11, the US and PRC also commenced a counterterrorism dialogue. The third round of that dialogue was held in Beijing in February 2003.
In the United States, the terrorist attacks greatly changed the nature of discourse. It was no longer plausible to argue, as the Blue Team had earlier asserted, that the PRC was the primary security threat to the United States, and the need to focus on the Middle East and the War on Terror made the avoidance of potential distractions in East Asia a priority for the United States.
There were initial fears among the PRC leadership that the war on terrorism would lead to an anti-PRC effort by the US, especially as the US began establishing bases in Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and renewed efforts against Iraq. Because of setbacks in America's Iraq campaign, these fears have largely subsided. The application of American power in Iraq and continuing efforts by the United States to cooperate with the PRC has significantly reduced the popular anti-Americanism that had developed in the mid-1990s.
The PRC and the US have also worked closely on regional issues, including those pertaining to North Korea and its nuclear weapons program. The People's Republic of China has stressed its opposition to North Korea's decision to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, its concerns over North Korea's nuclear capabilities, and its desire for a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. It also voted to refer North Korea's noncompliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency obligations to the UN Security Council.
Taiwan remains a volatile issue, but one that remains under control. The United States policy toward Taiwan has involved emphasizing the Four Noes and One Without. On occasion the United States has rebuked Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian for provocative pro-independence rhetoric. However, in 2005, the PRC passed the Anti-Secession Law which stated that the PRC would be prepared to resort to "non-peaceful means" if Taiwan declared formal independence. Many critics of the PRC, such as the Blue Team, argue that the PRC was trying to take advantage of the US war in Iraq to assert its claims on Republic of China's territory. In 2008, Taiwan voters elected Ma Ying-jeou. Ma, representing the Kuomintang, campaigned on a platform that included rapprochement with mainland China. His election has significant implications for the future of cross-strait relations.
China's paramount leader Hu Jintao visited the United States in April 2006. Clark Randt, U.S. Ambassador to China from 2001 to 2008 examined "The State of U.S.-China Relations in a 2008 lecture at the USC U.S.-China Institute.
The 2008 US presidential election centered on issues of war and economic recession, but candidates Barack Obama and John McCain also spoke extensively regarding US policy toward China. Both favored cooperation with China on major issues, but they differed with regard to trade policy. Obama expressed concern that the value of China's currency was being deliberately set low to benefit China's exporters. McCain argued that free trade was crucial and was having a transformative effect in China. Still, McCain noted that while China might have shared interests with the US, it did not share American values.
Barack Obama's presidency has fostered hopes for increased co-operation and heightened levels of friendship between the two nations. On November 8, 2008, Hu Jintao and Barack Obama shared a phone conversation in which the Chinese President congratulated Obama on his election victory. During the conversation both parties agreed that the development of US-China relations is not only in the interest of both nations, but also in the interests of the world.
Other organizations within China also held positive reactions to the election of Barack Obama, particularly with his commitment to revising American climate change policy. Greenpeace published an article detailing how Obama's victory would spell positive change for investment in the green jobs sector as part of a response to the financial crisis gripping the world at the time of Obama's inauguration. A number of organizations, including the US Departments of Energy and Commerce, NGOs such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution, and universities, have been working with Chinese counterparts to discuss ways to address climate change. Both US and Chinese governments have addressed the economic downturn with massive stimulus initiatives. The Chinese have expressed concern that "Buy American" components of the US plan discriminate against foreign producers, including those in China.
As the two most influential and powerful countries in the world, there have been increasingly strong suggestions within American political circles of creating a G-2 (Chimerica) relationship for the United States and China to work out solutions to global problems together.
The Strategic Economic Dialogue initiated by then-US President Bush and Chinese President Hu and led by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi in 2006 has been broadened by the Obama administration. Now called the U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, it is led by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner for the United States and Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo for China. The focus of the first set of meetings in July 2009 was in response to the economic crisis, finding ways to cooperate to stem global warming and addressing issues such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons and humanitarian crises.
US President Barack Obama visited China on November 15–18, 2009 to discuss economic worries, concerns over nuclear weapon proliferation, and the need for action against climate change. The USC US-China Institute produced a digest of press comments on this visit and on earlier presidential trips.
In January 2010, the US proposed a $6.4 billion arms sale to the Republic of China. In response, the PRC threatened to impose sanctions on US companies supplying arms to Taiwan and suspend cooperation on certain regional and international issues.
On February 19, 2010, President Obama met with the Dalai Lama, accused by China of "fomenting unrest in Tibet." After the meeting, China summoned the US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, but Time has described the Chinese reaction as "muted," speculating that it could be because "the meeting came during the Chinese New Year... when most officials are on leave." Some activists criticized Obama for the relatively low profile of the visit.
In 2012, the PRC criticized Obama's new defense strategy, which was widely viewed as aiming to isolate China in the East Asian region. Obama is looking to increase US military influence in the area with a rotating presence of forces in friendly countries.
In March 2012, China suddenly began cutting back its purchases of oil from Iran, along with some signs on sensitive security issues like Syria and North Korea, showed some coordination with the Obama administration.
In March 2013, the US and China agreed to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea for conducting nuclear tests, which sets the stage for UN Security Council vote. Such accord might signal a new level of cooperation between the US and China.
In an effort to build a "new model" of relations, President Obama met President Xi Jinping for two days of meetings, between 6 June and 8 June 2013, at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, California. The summit was considered "the most important meeting between an American president and a Chinese leader in 40 years, since Nixon and Mao," according to Joseph Nye, a political scientist at Harvard University. The leaders concretely agreed to combat climate change and also found strong mutual interest in curtailing North Korea's nuclear program. However, the leaders remained sharply divided over cyber espionage and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Xi was dismissive of American complaints about cyber security. Tom Donilon, the outgoing U.S. National Security Adviser, stated that cyber security "is now at the center of the relationship," adding that if China's leaders were unaware of this fact, they know now.
Relations between the military leadership of the two nations improved in 2013. General Qi said that over the long term the shared interests of the two would outweigh their differences.
President Obama hosted President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China for a bilateral meeting on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit on March 31, 2016.
President-elect Donald Trump′s telephone conversation with Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Republic of China, on 2 December 2016, the first such contact with Taiwan by a U.S. president-elect or president since 1979, provoked the People's Republic of China to lodge a diplomatic protest ("stern representations"). Trump went on to clarify his move by telling the Fox News, "I fully understand the 'one China' policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by a 'one China' policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."
On Donald Trump′s inauguration day, an official from the People's Liberation Army wrote on the official website that the US's military build-up in Asia, and its push to arm South Korea with the THAAD missile-defense system were provocative "hot spots getting closer to ignition" and that the chances of war had become “more real”.
On 23 January, speaking about China's claims to sovereignty over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, "It's a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we're going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country."
On 4 January, on a visit to Japan, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis reaffirmed Washington's commitment under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan to defending Japan, including the Senkaku Islands (the East China Sea) that are claimed by China.
On 9 February, Trump spoke with China's leader Xi Jinping over the phone discussing a wide range of issues; Trump was said to have re-iterated the U.S.′ commitment to the status quo 'one-China' policy.
The PRC and the US resumed trade relations in 1972 and 1973. Direct investment by the US in mainland China covers a wide range of manufacturing sectors, several large hotel projects, restaurant chains, and petrochemicals. US companies have entered agreements establishing more than 20,000 equity joint ventures, contractual joint ventures, and wholly foreign-owned enterprises in mainland China. More than 100 US-based multinationals have projects in mainland China, some with multiple investments. Cumulative US investment in mainland China is valued at $48 billion. The US trade deficit with mainland China exceeded $350 billion in 2006 and was the United States' largest bilateral trade deficit. Some of the factors that influence the U.S. trade deficit with mainland China include:
Beginning in 2009, the US and China agreed to hold regular high-level talks about economic issues and other mutual concerns by establishing the Strategic Economic Dialogue, which meets biannually. Five meetings have been held, the most recent in December 2008. Economic nationalism seems to be rising in both countries, a point the leaders of the two delegations noted in their opening presentations. The United States and China have also established the high-level US-China Senior Dialogue to discuss international political issues and work out resolutions.
In September 2009 a trade dispute emerged between China and the United States, which came after the US imposed tariffs of 35 percent on Chinese tire imports. The Chinese commerce minister accused the United States of a "grave act of trade protectionism," while a USTR spokesperson said the tariff "was taken precisely in accordance with the law and our international trade agreements." Additional issues were raised by both sides in subsequent months.
When a country joins the World Trade Organization they commit to keep their Tariffs beneath the bound rate, which is generally around 39 percent. China's reaction is due to the fact that nations usually keep their Tariffs at an average of 9 percent, but when the U.S raised their Tariff on Chinese imported tires to 35 percent, it was still below the average bound rate.
Pascal Lamy cautioned: "The statistical bias created by attributing commercial value to the last country of origin perverts the true economic dimension of the bilateral trade imbalances. This affects the political debate, and leads to misguided perceptions. Take the bilateral deficit between China and the US. A series of estimates based on true domestic content can cut the overall deficit – which was $252bn in November 2010 – by half, if not more."
In early 2012, a dispute over rare earth minerals was brought into the light between the two countries. President Obama made an announcement that the United States would be one of a few countries to file a dispute with China. Amongst the United States, Japan and other Western European countries would also be filing disputes as well. This is simply just one of few disputes between the United States and China. It is believed by many experts, including Chris Isidore, a writer for CNN Money, that "any one of the disputes could damage the economies of both countries as well as the relationship between them." The dispute was filed, and China was charged with putting unfair restrictions on the exportation of rare earth minerals. These minerals were crucial and in high demand by all countries. President Obama believed the United States should have those minerals in the United States whereas China disagreed. China denied all of the said charges brought forth "saying its rules are defensible on grounds of environmental and economic sustainability, and suggests there would be consequences if the United States presses the case." It is important to understand the relationship between the United States and China, especially economically. There is not one without the other. China's state news agency commented that "past experiences have shown that policymakers in Washington should treat such issues with more prudence, because maintaining sound China-U.S. trade relations is in the fundamental interests of both sides"
From 2003 to 2014, China was a major currency manipulator. Economist C. Fred Bergsten, writing for the Peterson Institute for International Economics, wrote that "During this 'decade of manipulation,' China bought more than $300 billion annually to resist upward movement of its currency by artificially keeping the exchange rate of the dollar strong and the renminbi's exchange rate weak. China's competitive position was thus strengthened by as much as 30 to 40 percent at the peak of the intervention. Currency manipulation explained most of China's large trade surpluses, which reached a staggering 10 percent of its entire GDP in 2007." During this period, China's currency manipulation was a point of conflict with the United States. Domestic leaders within the United States pressured the Obama administration to take a hard-line stance against China and compel them to raise the value of their currency, and legislation was introduced to the United States Congress calling on the President to impose tariffs on Chinese imports until China properly values its currency.
Since 2014, the situation changed dramatically, as China stopped artificially deflating its currency, as the growth in the Chinese economy slowed and Chinese investors made more investments outside the country, leading to a drop in the yuan's value in relation to the dollar, as well as a decline in China's reserves.
China is a major creditor and the second largest foreign holder of US public debt and has been critical of US deficits and fiscal policy, advising for policies that maintain the purchasing value of the dollar although it had little few options other than to continue to buy United States Treasury bonds. China condemned the US monetary policy of quantitative easing, responding to S&P's downgrade of U.S. credit rating, and advised the United States not to continue with the accumulation of debt, concluding with the statement that America cannot continue to borrow to solve financial problems.
The PRC's military budget is often mentioned as a threat by many, including the Blue Team. The PRC's investment in its military is growing rapidly. The United States, along with independent analysts, remains convinced that the PRC conceals the real extent of its military spending. According to the PRC government, China spent $45 billion on defense in 2007. In contrast, the United States had a $623-billion budget for the military in 2008, $123 billion more than the combined military budgets of all other countries in the world. Some very broad US estimates maintain that the PRC military spends between $85 billion and $125 billion. According to official figures, the PRC spent $123 million on defense per day in 2007. In comparison, the US spent $1.7 billion ($1,660 million) per day that year.
The concerns over the Chinese military budget may come from US worries that the PRC is attempting to threaten its neighbors or challenge the United States. Concerns have been raised that China is developing a large naval base near the South China Sea and has diverted resources from the People's Liberation Army Ground Force to the People's Liberation Army Navy and to air force and missile development. Even still, China's military spending is only a fourth of US spending.
Andrew Scobell wrote that under President Hu, objective civilian control and oversight of the PLA appears to be weakly applied.
On October 27, 2009, American Defense Secretary Robert Gates praised the steps China has taken to increase transparency of defense spending. In June 2010, however, he said that the Chinese military was resisting efforts to improve military-to-military relations with the United States. Gates has also said that the United States will "assert freedom of navigation" in response to Chinese complaints about United States Navy deployments in international waters near China. Admiral Michael Mullen has said that the United States seeks closer military ties to China, but will continue to operate in the western Pacific.
A recent report stated that five of six US Air Force bases in the area are potentially vulnerable to Chinese missiles and called for increased defenses.
Meanwhile, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists wrote in a 2010 report that the Chinese continue to invest in modernization of their nuclear forces because they perceive that their deterrent force is vulnerable to American capabilities and that further improvement in American missile defenses will drive further Chinese spending in this area.
Chinese defense minister Liang Guanglie has said that China is 20 years behind the United States in military technology.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies in a 2011 report argued that if spending trends continue China will achieve military equality with the United States in 15–20 years.
China and the United States have been described as engaging in a race of military technology. Expansion and development of new weapons by China has been seen as so threatening as to cause planning for withdrawal of US forces from close proximity to China, dispersal of US bases in the region, and development of various new weapon systems. China is also developing capacity for attacking satellites and for cyberwarfare.
In 2012, it was reported that the United States would invite a team of senior Chinese logisticians to discuss the possibility of a first-ever logistics cooperation agreement between the two countries.
Professor James R. Holmes, Chinese specialist at the U.S. Naval War College, has said that China's investments towards a potential future conflict are closer to those of the United States than may first appear, because the Chinese understate their spending, the internal price structures of the two countries are different, and the Chinese only need to concentrate on projecting military force a short distance from their own shores. The balance may shift to the advantage of the Chinese very quickly if they continue double digit yearly growth while the Americans and their allies cut back.
In line with power transition theory, the idea that "wars tend to break out...when the upward trajectory of a rising power comes close to intersecting the downward trajectory of a declining power," some have argued that conflict between China, an emerging power, and the United States, the reigning superpower, is all but inevitable.
The US military has developed an AirSea Battle plan that calls for a total war with China (rather than a limited one) and starts with a major attack on China’s main land, because that is where the Chinese anti-ship missiles are placed. They prevent (US warships from carrying out their mission in the area).
In 2003, the United States declared that despite some positive momentum that year and greater signs that the People's Republic of China was willing to engage with the US and others on human rights, there was still serious backsliding. China has acknowledged in principle the importance of protection of human rights and has claimed to have taken steps to bring its own human rights practices into conformity with international norms. Among these steps are the signing of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in October 1997, ratified in March 2001, and signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October 1998, which has not yet been ratified. In 2002, China released a significant number of political and religious prisoners and agreed to interact with United Nations experts on torture, arbitrary detention, and religion. However, international human rights groups assert that there has been virtually no movement on these promises, with more people being arrested for similar offences since. Such groups maintain that China still has a long way to go in instituting the kind of fundamental systemic change that will protect the rights and liberties of all its citizens in mainland China. The US State Department publishes an annual report on human rights around the world, which includes an evaluation of China's human rights record.
In a decision that was criticized by human rights groups, the State Department did not list China as one of the world's worst human rights violators in its 2007 report of human rights practices in countries and regions outside the United States. However, the then-assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Jonathan D. Farrar stated that China's overall human rights record in 2007 remained poor.
Since 1998, China has annually published a White Paper detailing the human rights abuses by the United States and since 2005 has also published a White Paper on its own political system and democratic progress.
On February 27, 2014 the United States released its China report on human rights practices for 2013 which, according to its executive summary, described the PRC as an authoritarian state and a place in which repression and coercion were routine. On February 28, 2014, China published a report on human rights in the United States citing surveillance on its own citizens, mistreatment of inmates, gun violence, and homelessness despite having a vibrant economy as important issues.
China's economic rise has led to some geo-political friction between the US and China in the East Asian region. For example, in response to China's response to the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong by North Korea, "Washington is moving to redefine its relationship with South Korea and Japan, potentially creating an anti-China bloc in Northeast Asia that officials say they don't want but may need." For its part, the Chinese government fears a US Encirclement Conspiracy.
China and the US have recently led competing efforts to gain influence in Asian trade and development. In 2015, China led the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, with the goal of financing projects which would spur the development of the lower-tier Asian economies, thus facilitating improved economic ties across the region. It has been suggested that the United States considered the AIIB to be a challenge to the US-backed Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, and sees the Chinese effort as an attempt to set the global economic agenda on terms formulated by the government in Beijing . The Obama administration led an effort to enact the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a multilateral trade pact between a number of Pacific Rim countries, which excluded China. According to the US Trade Representative, the agreement was designed to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in the signatories' countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections." The deal was placed on hold after the US withdrew from the agreement on 23 January 2017. These efforts are among the attempts by both the US and China to increase their influence over the Asia-Pacific by strengthening their economic ties within the region.
According to an article published on Jura Gentium, Journal of Philosophy of International Law and Global Politics, there is a "new Sphere of Influence 2" shaped mainly by China and the US. Even on social media, if the Western, Japanese and South Korean events and daily life are linked through Facebook, Chinese and American habits and customs are disconnected lacking in social media sharing. This strategy to avoid American influences through social networks is preserved by the Chinese government.
In response to increased American drone strikes against militants on Pakistan's border areas during the Obama administration, the PRC has offered additional fighter jets to Pakistan.
Countries in Southeast Asia have responded to Chinese claims for sea areas by seeking closer relations with the United States. American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that in spite of budget pressures, the United States will expand its influence in the region, in order to counter China's military buildup.
On 7 June 2013, Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East–West Center in Honolulu, argued in The Diplomat that the United States and China must stop striving for trust and instead emphasize verification. "The argument that trust leads to peace is built on the premise that the suspicions between China and the U.S. are unfounded and would evaporate with more and deeper dialogue. Unfortunately, however, at least some of these suspicions are all too warranted." Whether international law should govern regional affairs in Asia; whether China should be allowed to make expansive sovereignty claims; and what the future strategic roles of South Korea and Japan should be, are issues that, according to Roy, are irreconcilable between China and the U.S. Strategic trust, therefore, is not attainable. "The two countries should strive to manage their inevitable bilateral strategic tensions by reaching agreements where both see a benefit and where compliance is measurable. . . for these inherent rivals and potential adversaries, the emphasis belongs on 'verify,' not 'trust.'"
In the context of US-China relations, a potential application of MAR would be the U.S. pledging not to move its forces into North Korea in the event of a regime collapse, which could be followed by a commitment from China not to move its troops to the DMZ in such an event.
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