By Joshua D. Glawson | United States
US-China Relations: China has many trading partners; the US is the largest. As of recently, Trump has proposed possible tariffs to be added to imports from China into the US, which could hurt relations between the two. However, China does hold a significant amount of US Treasury debt, in fact they hold the most for outside of the US countries. This is to say that each of these countries has a significant financial incentive to maintain good relations, yet according to the Cato Institute, there is no formal Fair Trade Agreement between the two.
A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is necessary between US and China in order to better relations and trades. This comprehensive set of rules will give confidence to business, especially in areas of intellectual property and technology transfer. China is notorious for not keeping strong regulations on Chinese companies infringing on copyrights and IP. The same FTA could be a good step forward with Russia as well, but many in the US are in fear of Russia becoming more powerful if that were to happen. Nevertheless, contrary to what some believe, free trade benefits the citizenry more than it would the governments’ political elite.
MIT stated, “In 2016 China exported $2.27T, making it the largest exporter in the world. During the last five years, the exports of China have increased at an annualized rate of 1.7%, from $2.04T in 2011 to $2.27T in 2016.” Whereas, “In 2016 China imported $1.23T, making it the 2nd largest importer in the world. During the last five years, the imports of China have decreased at an annualized rate of -2.8%, from $1.39T in 2011 to $1.23T in 2016. The most recent imports are led by Crude Petroleum which represents 8.25% of the total imports of China.” In 2016, the US imported from China around $436B in goods and exported around $122B in goods to China.
The Chinese have ramped up their militarization and continue to press forward into the South China Sea, against the wishes of the UN, the US, and other Western countries. Along with this growth of regional military presence, the US is equally showing a presence in the Sea as a means to attempt to thwart further possible aggression by the Chinese. So, economically, China and the US are tied together in a seemingly eternal marriage of trade, but when it comes to regional hegemony the two clash when it comes to determining who has legitimate authority and power.
This rising tension further perpetuates the idea that an FTA may help ease the stress between the two. Yet, China’s Communist President Xi Jinping has also pushed his Asian continental series of high-speed railways in what he has called “The One Belt, One Road, Initiative.” According to a report at Axios, this is still a part of the Chinese Navy’s military budget and growth, estimated anywhere between $4T and $8T, likened to a modern Silk Road.
Chinese-Russian Relations: China is Russia’s biggest source of import and export. As of 2016, Russia imported around $35.5B from China and exported nearly $30.3B to China. The two, although they share a border, have not had a longstanding good relationship, since the US has increased the US military presence in the Asian Pacific and along the waters of China and Russia, China and Russia have increased cooperation in military drills as a means to show comradery against the US hegemony.
Not only has US military presence irked Russia and China alike, but the US’ threats of tariffs on Chinese goods without an FTA could potentially lead to worsening relations between the US and China while strengthening those between China and Russia. Equally, the economic sanctions on Russia by the US, are probably inadvertently assisting the relations between China and Russia since China is now Russia’s biggest importer and exporter. If indeed it is verified on all levels that Russia mingled in the 2016 US Presidential elections, that could ensure severed ties between the US and Russia, providing more reason for Russia to join forces with China.
Both China and Russia have worked together in the past. Not only are they regionally close, but politically they are far more similar than the US is with either one of them. The Soviets joined China to fight against the Americans in both the Vietnam and Korean wars. The Chinese also joined the Americans to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, showing the complexity of their relations.
Concluding Statements: The timidly fluid relations among the US, China, and Russia, has been economically lucrative while concurrently the escalating militarization of each of these States has brought the world to attention over the fear of a potential World War far more catastrophic than any in the past. While China is gaining economically, some of their exploitations of trade tariffs and their expansion of military may become their Achilles heel.
As for Russia, sanctions against them only help benefit the elite, while hurting the country overall. The best bet to ensure bettered relations between the US and Russia is by setting up a secure FTA. An FTA should also be established with China in order to maintain good economic and political relations between the US and China. It would then behoove Russia and China to follow suit. The ongoing lingering force of the US military around the world will surely be one of the US’ downfalls, as it blatantly instigates and infuriates countries all over, but it absolutely frustrates both Russia and China especially within their own regions.
The sure way to peace is the age-old tale of continuing in free trade, having Justice systems that provide equality under the law and cease the prowess of global military might or dominance. Countries that normalize positive trade relations between one another will find that the economic incentive is far more valuable than the harms caused by going to war with one another.
Likened to a parable, wars between butchers and candlestick makers leave the town with tarnished knives and a lack of light; but if the butcher and candlestick maker agree to trade instead of fight, their steel is strengthened and their lights shine brightest.
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