President Trump and President Xi are working to resolve potential tariff hikes. This doesn’t change the degree to which the U. S. feels threatened by China.
The highly anticipated meeting between U. S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit concluded last Saturday evening with no major breakthrough. Pundits who had hoped for a good trade deal between the U. S. and China are surely disappointed.
President Trump previously threatened to raise tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on about $250 billion worth of Chinese imports on January 1,2019. Now he has agreed to hold off on the tariff hike while both the Americans and Chinese delegations engage in trade negotiations for the next 90 days.
At present, President Xi has agreed not to impose any tit-for-tat response to current U. S. tariffs on Chinese imports. While stock markets and businesses worldwide can breathe a sigh of relief for now since the trade war will not get worse for another three months, the temporary truce can’t mask the deep divisions between the United States and China.
From the U. S. perspective, the rise of China has transitioned from a hope to a disappointment to a threat. When former president Richard Nixon visited Communist China in 1972 and established a diplomatic relationship, 99 percent of Chinese people made less than $2 a day and China’s per capita gross domestic product was less than $200. The Chinese people were poorer than people in Bangladesh, to put it into perspective.
In 2017, China’s GDP per capita was close to $9,000. Global poverty rates have been cut in half since 1981, mainly because of China’s impressive economic growth. This economic growth has a lot to do with the Chinese people’s ingenuity and certain market-friendly policies from their central government. But China often fails to mention that China wouldn’t have had almost four decades of impressive growth without the West, especially the United States, providing markets for Chinese goods, bringing foreign investment to China to build factories, and training millions of talented Chinese students at Western colleges and universities.
Starting with Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, successions of American leaders––including presidents, policy makers, and advisers––had hoped that through investment, economic aid, military assistance, and cultural exchange, Americans could turn China into a democratic country with a market economy that had no ambition to challenge the rule-based global power structure the United States established at the end of World War II.
That hope was first seriously challenged in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s– on the political front, when pro-democracy students were suppressed in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and on the economic front when western businesses began to encounter problems with Chinese piracy of CDs, Holly­wood movies, and handbags.
But the United States, under President Bill Clinton, decided that continuing engagement would eventually turn China around.

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