China and the U.S. 

China and the U.S. are locked in an increasingly intense rivalry when it comes to national security and economic competition. American leaders frequently identify China as their greatest long-term challenger. 

At a recent Monday Club event in New York, the situation between the two countries were discussed. There are many fundamental differences between the countries that by nature make the countries on opposite side of the spectra, even potential enemies. 

One is the fact that the U.S. is a democracy, China is not. In a democracy there are many key elements such as free speech, elections, human rights, freedom to travel and freedom of religion just to mention a few. In the west, a democracy is seen as good, whereas a non-democracy is seen as bad. So even before starting a conversation, the U.S. has a bad, negative view of China and would like to transform China into a democracy and a good country. 

Either way, the countries are heavily intertwined economically. The world’s two largest economies represent about 40% of the global economic output and remain integral partners in many ways. They sell and buy important products from each other, finance each other businesses and create apps and movies for audiences in both countries. The U.S. economy continues to outstrip China’s by dollar value. Chinese gross domestic product is about $18 trillion annually, compared to $25.5 trillion for the U.S. Given that the Chinses population is more than four times America’s, and the Chinese economic growth rate is significantly higher than the U.S., it is just a matter of time before China will be the dominant economic power in the world. The current estimate is that it will happen around 2035. 

China is also more aggressive than the U.S. in terms of investments such as the global infrastructure project Belt and Road Initiative and a rapid effort to modernize its military. This has caused concerns in the U.S., even though the U.S. still have a higher military budget with $877 billion against China’s $292 billion. 

There is still significant trade tension between the countries. Trump tried to create a renewed playing field with fairer trade between the countries and increased several tariffs against China. Biden has chosen to keep these in place and has otherwise been relatively hands-off vis-à-vis China during his presidency. Recently Blinken and Yellen visited China, but with marginal or no impact. 

Not only economic and trade ties are close between the countries. About 300,000 students from China attend U.S. institutions of higher learning, nearly a third of all international students in the U.S. The students are presumable all loyal to the Chinese regime and children of the communist elite. 

Another overshadowing source for tension is Taiwan, which according to China is part of China and will be incorporated with the mainland at some point. The democratic Taiwan would likely suffer the same fate as Hong Kong and they are not eager to join mainland China. 

The discussions during the Monday Club were interesting and provocative. One camp is firmly against working closer with China based on the view that China is a bad undemocratic country. 

The other camp is a more moderate and realistic camp that emphasizes collaboration with China and argues that with more and closer economic links, both countries would benefit, and eventually democratic parties will emerge in China. 

Everyone seems quite opinionated when it comes to China even though only a few people at the event had been there. The majority seems to think working closer together will benefit both countries although nobody is openly supporting the Chinese political system. The export of American democracy might be a noble goal, but it is highly unlikely that China will transform into a democracy any time soon. 

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