November 08, 2011

The Instability of China–US Relations

SOURCE: Chinese Journal of International Politics Volume3, Issue3Pp. 263-292.

China and the United States signed a joint statement during US President Barack Obama’s four-day state visit to China in November 2009 in which President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, ‘reached agreement to advance China–US relations in the new era’.1 These relations, however, soured after successive fallings-out over US trade sanctions on Chinese seamless steel tubes, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s criticism of China’s internet freedom, US arms sales to Taiwan, and Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in the White House—that began only one month after Obama's visit and carried on through to February 2010.2 Just as political commentators began to understand the reasons for this 180-degree shift over such a short period they were taken back afresh on April 2 when the relationship made a rapid recovery, evident in the hour-long telephone conversation that day between President Hu and President Obama on cooperation.3 Few appeared to have noticed that sudden deteriorations followed by rapid recoveries have been the norm in China–US relations since the 1990s. This article explains the enduring phenomenon using a theory of superficial friendship—namely the policy of pretending to be friends.


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