Lecture Topic: What Went Wrong? The U.S. and China from Partners to Competitors
Class taken by Dr. Harry Harding
The United States and China relations have been complex in various aspects. Both countries used to maintain strategic partnership but then becoming competitors in recent years. According to Dr. Harry Harding at the G2S2 Lecture on August 2, 2019, the critical point of the U.S. and China relations was the Tiananmen tragedy in 1989. In the Cold War period, China was important card for the U.S. to play with Soviet Union but the Tiananmen tragedy had led the first U.S.-China major crisis. Immediately after the tragedy, then President George H.W. Bush limited the U.S. contact with China but this policy was criticized by his successor Bill Clinton who had positive vision for the U.S.-China relations. Clinton wanted the U.S. to reengage dialogue with China and built comprehensive engagement for both countries relations. He agreed with the then Chinese President Jiang Zemin to develop strategic partnership and work together in every important issue.
Dr. Harding asserted that the U.S. strategy to develop strategic partnership with China was clever but not wise for some reasons. First, the U.S. has encouraged China to become active member of international organizations and expected China to support rule-based system but China doesn’t accept leadership. Second, the U.S. has built deeper economic interdependence with China but it forgets that balanced trade requires balanced economies. Third, the U.S. leaders have tried to build personal ties with Chinese leaders but without considering the personal chemistry. Fourth, the U.S. has addressed mistrust through transparency but transparency can actually increase mistrust. Consequently, protracted dialogues between the U.S. and Chinese leaders have not resulted convincing outcomes. Since Xi Jinping assumed the Chinese leadership in 2013, the U.S. has considered China as competitor rather than partner and it has reflected in the trade war.