Today, China is the second largest creditor of the U.S. Likewise, the U.S. is China’s biggest export country – importing close to $411 Billion worth of Chinese-manufactured products. In the 1950s, these two countries were considered rivals in ideals and policies. What then were the key events that have shaped Chinese-U.S. Relations today?

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Events that have threatened U.S. – Chinese relations

The Korea War

One of the most significant events in U.S. – Chinese relations is the Korean War. After World War II, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) attacked the Republic of Korea (South Korea). What had started as a conflict between the two nations soon escalated to a war beyond their borders. On the one end, the Soviet Union and China supporting North Korea and on the other end, the U.S. providing aid to South Korea. Though the war eventually ended with both nations maintaining their independence, both the U.S. and China had established their commitment to their respective political values. Tensions continued to rise as China helped Vietnam fight the American army during the Vietnam War.

One China

Another sensitive issue between both countries is China’s One China policy. The historic recognition of Taiwan, specifically, as a free nation has strained relations between the two countries. Upon the establishment of the Communist Party in China in 1949, the U.S. continued to support Nationalist Forces who had fled to Taiwan. This coupled with the aftermath of the Korean War led China to cut all economic engagement between the two countries. It was only in 1971 through the invitation extended to a U.S. table tennis player to visit China, that the door opened for diplomacy. Then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, conducted a private visit to China to negotiate the re-establishment of trade relations between the two countries. A year later, President Nixon visited Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai, the first visit of a U.S. President since the war. It was only in 1979, however, when the U.S. finally broke ties with Taiwan that diplomatic relations were restored. This year, diplomatic ties were once again threatened as US Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott met Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-Wen thereby challenging the initial agreement between China and the US. Tensions have since been pacified after President Trump welcomed President Xi Jinping to his estate in Florida to confirm his intention to continue CU.S. Chinese relations in his term.

Events that fortified U.S. – Chinese relations

Treaty of Wanghai

The first exchange of American and Chinese goods in 1784 instituted economic relations between the two countries. Since then, both China and the US established policies to ensure continuous access to each other’s markets. In the 1800s, the two countries signed the Treaty of Wanghai which gave the US access to 5 trade ports and the right to buy land and learn the Chinese language. In 2000, the US gave China has Permanent Trade Relations which paved the way for the latter to join the World Trade Organization.

World War II

Finally, amidst the disputes during the aforementioned wars, many forget that China and the U.S. have been and continue to be allies in global affairs. One of the earliest accounts of U.S. -Chinese cooperating was during World War II. As the U.S., Great Britain and the Soviet Union were battling the Axis Powers in the West, China was simultaneously battling its own war in the East. After withstanding an initial invasion in Shanghai, Chinese forces were once again at war with the Japanese army as the latter sought to take over the city of Nanjing. For 6 weeks, China endured the atrocities of what is not known as the Nanjing (formerly Nanking) Massacre. Refusing to surrender, China not only maintained control of its borders but also contributed to the weakening of Japanese forces. To support China and the other Allies, the U.S. began sanctions against Japan and eventually started an oil embargo, which other countries followed. When Japan refused to surrender China, the U.S. and Japan went to war until 1945 (8 years after Japan’s attack on Nanjing) when Japan and the rest of the Axis powers surrendered. Today, the U.S. and China continue to collaborate against counterterrorism and nuclear proliferation.