America’s relationship with China has changed — what does that mean?

The conflict between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping continues to have an effect on diplomacy, according to scholars.

America’s relationship to China has changed in recent decades. Both U.S. politicians and the general public have become much more hawkish on China, changing them from a partner to a competitor in their collective imaginations.

According to President Joe Biden, China has become our “most serious competitor.” This leaves open questions for how the U.S. should consider China, and what the possibility is for working with them on issues like climate change.

“What we need to do is be working with China.” — Tom Watkins, Michigan-China Innovation Center

Listen: What kind of diplomatic relationship America should have toward China.



Tom Watkins is an advisor at the Michigan-China Innovation Center, which ​​serves as Michigan’s liaison to Chinese and Taiwanese businesses and governments. He’s also the former deputy chief of staff to Governor Jim Blanchard, director of the Department of Mental Health and State Superintendent of Schools.

Watkins says the U.S. should be working to collaborate with China.

“What we need to do is be working with China … as we work like our lives depend on it to avoid the kind of conflict that would be devastating to the people of China, the people of the U.S., and, for that matter, all of humanity,” says Watkins.

James Millward is a professor of inter-societal history at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, teaching Chinese, Central Asian and world history. He says China is not trying to wage an ideological battle against the U.S., but that the two nations are stuck in bad diplomatic ties.

“The current, dire state of U.S.-China relations is also a problem of personalities,” says Millward, “and this kind of perfect storm of Trump and Xi both being in power at the same time and both screwing things up in the relationship — each in their own way.”

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