Tensions between China and the United States have reached the most acute levels since the countries normalized diplomatic relations more than four decades ago, with the U.S. government’s ordering that China close its Houston consulate being just the latest example.
In defense, trade, technology, human rights and other categories, actions and reprisals by one side or the other have escalated sharply under President Donald Trump’s administration, despite his repeated expressions of admiration for President Xi Jinping of China.
The administration is even weighing a blanket ban on travel to the United States by the 92 million members of China’s ruling Communist Party and the possible expulsion of any members currently in the country, an action that would likely invite retaliation against American travel and residency in China.
“I think we’re in a dangerous and precipitous spiral downward, not without cause, but without the proper diplomatic skills to arrest it,” said Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. The severity of the confrontation, he said, “has jumped the wall from specific and solvable challenges to a clash of systems and values.”
Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Business Council, said he was alarmed by the increasing invective from two superpowers that together represent 40% of global economic output. “If we are yelling at each other and slamming doors, then the world is a very unstable place, and businesses are not able to plan,” he said.