Assess the view that China and the United States will never see eye to eye in any aspects.
Since the early 1990s, Sino-US relations have followed an uneven course, with modest improvements overshadowed by various recurring difficulties. Among others, bilateral difficulties have included US problems with the China’s worsening human rights record, growing tensions over Taiwan’s status and differing views regarding its fight against terrorism. However in certain aspects China and the United States have seen greater cooperation such as economic cooperation and cooperation on the North Korean Nuclear Crisis.
- Human Rights Issue
Disputes in human rights issues is one of the reasons why China and the US will never see eye to eye. USA’s Non-Governmental Organization’s (NGO), media and the government are critical of the Chinese government treatment of dissidents, religious groups, ethnic minorities, workers, accused criminals, prisoners, and married people contemplating having more than one child, among other issues. With the rise of human rights movement and human rights diplomacy that is occurring in the US, it conflicts with China’s domestic policies which USA claims to violate internationally recognized human rights. The event that fixed human rights as a core Sino-US issue was the Tiananmen Incident. Since then, USA has been on the offensive at both the non-governmental and governmental levels in criticizing China’s human rights violations. Policy instruments included public shaming, quiet shaming, quiet diplomacy, threats of trade sanctions and efforts to have China criticized at the annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights commission in Geneva. This led to the worsening of bilateral relations which still remains as a major obstacle today. A recent example would be the case of Chen Guang Cheng, an activist lawyer who fled from house arrest and sought political asylum in the USA in 2012, thus straining relations between the two parties. Although in 2015, the USA eventually gave in and pressured him to return to China, former US support for him was seen to be outright meddling in the international affairs of the Chinese state.
- Taiwan Issue
The Taiwan issue is another reason as to why China and the US will never see eye to eye. For centuries, the concept of “One China”, China’s proper governance under a single authority has been imbibed in the minds of the generations of the Chinese and many still believe that Taiwan should reunify with China someday. Prior to the establishment of official Sino-US relations, China had evidently set the “3 No’s” policy as a prerequisite for the establishment of official Sino-US relations in 1979. While the US is opposed to the independence of Taiwan as part of its “3 No’s” policy, it continues to have good non-official relations with Taiwan and this traditional US support for Taiwan has always been a source of insecurity for China as it may possibly thwart opportunities for reunification. With USA’s continued military sales to Taiwan for its defence, as well as the possibility of extending its Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) strategy to Taiwan, this heightened China’s concern with regards to USA’s support for Taiwan as it may possibly promote an independent Taiwan policy given USA’s pro-democratic nature, threatening China’s territorial integrity. Therefore, the issue of Taiwan remains at the core of problems in the Sino-US relations today.
- Differing views regarding the fight against terrorism
The differing views between both countries about the fight against terrorism also shows how China and the USA may possibly never see eye to eye. Despite both countries being determined to tackle global terrorism in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in 2001, in recent years, China has seen a complete shift in this outlook with the number of uprising in the region of Tibet and Xinjiang, China has instead used its anti-terrorism campaign in these Muslim-majority areas like Xinjiang. This has led to the US questioning China’s lack of transparency on such campaigns on incidents China claims as acts of “terrorism” by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in 2016. In mitigation, China states that USA was making baseless reports about counter-terrorism policies in their country. As such, what used to be an opportunity for Sino-US cooperation has led to mistrusts and doubts, preventing China and the US from ever seeing eye to eye.
- Economic Disagreements
China’s unethical economic practices also prevents China and the US from ever seeing eye to eye. This is due to their close ties that China’s economic practices have negatively affected the US’s economy. The trade surplus favoring China meant that more than ¼ of US total trade deficit was with them and this allowed China to hold a considerable leverage over the US in the economic area. While the US sought to correct the trade imbalance with greater access to the Chinese market and more favorable terms of trade, China wanted to maintain the status quo so as to continue benefiting from the trade imbalance in its favor. This has inevitably led to severe consequences on USA’s side whereby as of 2015, its trade deficit with China was $365.7 billion, a new record compared to 2014’s record of $343 billion. As such, this “undervaluation” of the Renminbi (RMB) also made it a “currency manipulator” in the eyes of many US citizens. Furthermore, while this made Chinese exports more competitive which benefits them, it prevented free competition between them and US producers. At the same time, the undervaluation of the RMB also had the side effect of deterring other Asian countries from appreciating their currencies for fear of losing their competitiveness. Thus, bringing about much domestic dissatisfaction and pressure to rectify the trade imbalances with China. Thus, economic disagreements between both countries effectively prevents them from ever seeing eye to eye as neither is willing to compromise on their part.
- Economic Cooperation
With China becoming the 2nd largest economy in the world, China’s relationship with the US had changed for the better, allowing China to see eye to eye with the US through economic cooperation such as trading. Trading not only ties states closer together because of shared economic interests, but also breeds contracts between regions, cities and individuals. These are much deeper connections than the political relationship on the surface. While the US congress sputters about the need to ‘punish’ China supposed transgressions, the individual states have been pushing China to invest in places as politically and geographically far such as Illinois and South Carolina and China did. Therefore, China and the US are able to see eye to eye due to its economic cooperation, although possibly being done out of political interests, it inevitably still allowed for both sides to reach a consensus.
- Cooperation in the North Korea Nuclear Crisis
The issue of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis has allowed for China and the US to see eye to eye. With regards to North Korea amassing nuclear weapons, it has led to the possibility of a nuclear war in recent years. This have brought about greater cooperation between China and US during the annual UN General Assembly of 2016 whereby China supports closer cooperation in the UN Security Council and in enforcement efforts to halt North Korea’s nuclear program. Furthermore, the participation in the Six-Party talks between China and the US have allowed for greater cooperation due to their common goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. On one hand, it is important for the US to maintain good diplomatic relations with China, an ally of North Korea whom it holds significant influence over in order to put North Korea in their discussions through China. Whereas, China on the other hand, prioritizes good relations with the USA to have a form of leverage over its regional allies. Therefore in such cases, both China and the US can be said to see eye to eye given their common goals.
In conclusion, it is evident that both countries in most cases are unable to see eye to eye on many issues. Even though it is known that there are concessions being made, these concessions are merely minor ones because the main objective of both countries is to achieve what is best for their national interest through competition and rivalry, therefore resulting in minor compromises only. The challenges faced in maintaining Sino-US relations are numerous and are certainly all important in shaping ties between the two parties.