Just the Facts

Five Facts on The Strained Relations Between the U.S. and China

By Emma Petasis
October 5, 2018 | Blog

Over the past several months relations between the U.S. and China have grown particularly strained. For much of this time the disagreements have centered around disputes over trade. However, over the past several days the Trump administration has focused on challenging many Chinese actions deemed illicit by the United States.  These grievances have been aired in public settings, including President Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week and a speech delivered by Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.  Here are five facts on the strained relations between the U.S. and China:

China and the United States are currently embroiled in a prolonged trade dispute

President Trump first instituted tariffs on Chinese products in January 2018, which has resulted in a tit-for-tat series of tariffs over the course of the past several months. In early June, President Trump announced a 25% tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce stated that the United States “has launched the biggest trade war in economic history so far.” Beijing responded with proportional tariffs on $34 billion worth of U.S. imports, targeting commodities such as soybeans and electric vehicles. Trump then retaliated with tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods in mid-September, which was met with China slapping tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. exports. At present, trade negotiations between the two countries appear to be at a standstill.

Both President Trump and Vice President Pence have publicly accused China of meddling in U.S. elections in an effort to hurt the Trump administration

In a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, President Trump was blunt in his condemnation of Chinese meddling in the 2018 elections, stating that China is “attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election … against my administration.” President Trump continued, explaining the Chinese “do not want me or us to win, because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade, and we are winning on trade, we are winning at every level.” Vice President Pence echoed this sentiment in his speech on Thursday, stating “China wants a different American president,” before elaborating that “Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies.” Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, has strongly disputed claims of election meddling, “We did not and will not interfere in any country’s domestic affairs. We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China.”

Vice President Pence strongly rebuked Chinese activity in the South China Sea and affirmed America’s right to operate in the area

The South China Sea and ownership of its territory, which is strategically located between China, Vietnam, and the Philippines has been the source of fierce regional disputes, as well international confrontations between world powers such as the U.S. and China. This past Sunday a U.S. destroyer and a Chinese warship came within feet of crashing into each other in the South China Sea, an incident that could have ignited an international crisis. Pence condemned the Chinese, which the U.S. has pegged as the aggressors, saying, “Despite such reckless harassment, the United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated. We will not stand down.”  The Chinese responded in turn, declaring that “The Chinese military will resolutely perform its defense duties and continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard our sovereignty and the regional peace and stability.”

Vice President Pence accused China of using Venezuela as an agent to undermine American interests and sow discord between America and its allies

Venezuela is currently in the midst of an economic and humanitarian crisis that has left the country bankrupt and millions of its people in dire need of aid.  The Trump administration, as well as many close American allies, have been very critical of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro whose regime has been accused of numerous human rights abuses.  In his speech, Pence condemned Beijing for extending “a lifeline to the corrupt and incompetent Maduro regime in Venezuela, pledging $5 billion in questionable loans that can be repaid with oil.” Pence went on to say, “previous administrations all but ignored China’s actions … but those days are over.”

Vice President Pence strongly condemned China for “predatory” economic practices

The vice president began by recognizing China’s economic power, stating, “Over the past 17 years, China’s GDP has grown 9-fold; it has become the second-largest economy in the world,” but stipulated that “Much of this success was driven by American investment in China.” He then drew attention to the U.S. assertion that “Beijing now requires many American businesses to hand over their trade secrets as the cost of doing business in China. It also coordinates and sponsors the acquisition of American firms to gain ownership of their creations. Worst of all, Chinese security agencies have masterminded the wholesale theft of American technology – including cutting-edge military blueprints.” Pence finished by stating, “America had hoped that economic liberalization would bring China into greater partnership with us and with the world. Instead, China has chosen economic aggression, which has in turn emboldened its growing military.”

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