Co-Operation and Conflict Relationship Between The US And China From 19th To 21st Century


Even the Cold War ended in 1991, the lust for power and rule the world amongst countries didn’t stop. The United States continued to develop in all forms including military and warships. On the other hand, China was developing itself in its own way.  Today both the US and China have a relation of co-operation on some subjects and while conflicts on other.

The opium wars gave China an opportunity to trade but on fair terms. The stability of power changed from the west having to defer to Chinese restrictions on trade, to China being obliged by the west to open its ports for trading. However, the Communist triumph in 1949  viewed this opening as overturned. China has been determined to ensure that the more contemporary opening of the economy is on more agreeable terms.

The opium wars were scathing to China’s ensuing political development which since then resulted in profound internal dispute in Chinese politics. Conundrum between aggressive dismissal of change and radical demands for reform, the Chinese realm collapsed in 1911, after a civil war and eventually the conquest of the Communists under Mao Zedong. 

In the current scenario, The ‘Century of Humiliation’ continues to endeavour influence in China, with Chinese political leaders keen to vanquish the inferior status the west enforced on them.

In the 20th century, the US supported China after the Japanese invasion and even during the Second World War. The US president Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 signified not only the changing relations between the two also the balance of power and political alliances at the international level. From the late 1970s and 1980s, China and the US intensified their relationship in the areas of diplomatic and economic co operations however the tension between the two persists even today.

China has already surpassed the US as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Total trade in goods and services between China and the US (US imports from China plus US exports to China) aggregated over the US $ 550 billion in 2011.  And China is the US’ largest supplier of imports and its third-largest export market.

The relation between the two seems like frenemies. The US fears its trade deficit with China is a source of weakness while China fears potential US protectionism. The interrelation between the two has changed with the change of government in the US. Under Donald Trump’s administration, the relation between the two got escalated due to Trump’s aggressive policies.

 However, under Joe Biden’s administration also the tension between the two persists.  Recently, Biden had criticized and accused China of a cyber-spying campaign pointing it as the major threat to the US national security. Both have posed sanctions on each other over various issues. There are sanctions on Chinese officials in Hong Kong while there are sanctions on US officials from China.

  The tension between the US and China persists on subjects like human rights issues, treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, disputed positions of Taiwan and Tibet, etc. This signifies that the US and China are on a clash course.