The State of U.S.-China Trade War

The decreasing share of the United States in global production and international trade and the increasing economic power of China has led to a new geopolitical landscape. In 2015, China became a dominant player in international trade, with its GDP reaching about USD 14092 million, ranking second. With almost the same economic potential, the two nations are in a tit-for-tat dispute. The United States’ concerns about China include theft of scientific and technical knowledge and technologies from American companies, human rights violation, and a weak lack of proper response to environmental protection. China criticizes the U.S. for practicing double standards and its desire to use human rights excuses to engage in foreign countries’ affairs. The pressure presented by the two countries on their respective administration will worsen the trade relations between the two nations.

Challenges ingrained in cybersecurity measures are acute in the case of China because of its fast-growing internet economy and active cyber programs. Many Americans believe that China has an established cyber war military units that attack the U.S infrastructure occasionally (Lindsay, 2015). In 2018, the Trump administration announced new tariffs targeting Chinese imports – clothing, shoes, and electronics -, in response to the theft of American properties. Consequently, China’s announced retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. China criticizes U.S. actions by that it prioritizes political control over the technical defense. China critics assert that the U.S. is excusing its Cyber Troop. China has been in the spotlight for developing policies to enhance cybersecurity while neglecting significant matters like environmental protection.

While there are conflicts in cybersecurity and intellectual property between the two countries, those emanating from human rights are more difficult to resolve. The US and China have different ideologies, histories, and social conditions. Since the era of President Clinton, the U.S. has invested a lot in championing human rights (Zhou, 2005). The Trump administration declared a series of sanctions and tariffs against China in response to the violation of human rights against the Uighur minority (Forbes, 2020). China criticizes these actions by arguing that America uses the pretext of human rights to intervene in affairs of foreign nationals instead of advancing its own strategic goals. According to Zhou, the Chinese believe that Americans assume their values are superior to the rest of the world, which is wrong. China considers the United States’ stand on human rights as double standards.

The relations between the United States and China will ultimately get worse with time. The U.S. intends to protect its domestic market by imposing and retaining tariffs on Chinese imports. It comes after massive job losses caused by the flooding of cheap Chinese imports in America over the last few years. Americans will demand protection of their jobs whether the democrats or republicans are in power. China has a significantly growing economy due to its large international market and the focus on industrialization. Its authoritarian government intends to keep it so. The two nations are eventually drifting towards partial economic independence from each other, and as this happens, accepting a mutually beneficial policy is now almost inconceivable.

In the short run, the United States is reducing the trade deficit by curbing imports. In the long run, such benefits will get dimmed by the consequences of the war, chiefly with effects on investment and productivity. The trade war spans beyond tariffs on imports, investment, and productivity. It involves regulations on high-tech industries, political rivalry, and economic rivalry, among others. The consequence of the trade war between these two giant economies is likely to spill over to the rest of the world with time.


Forbes, D. (2020). US-China Policy: How Mistreatment of the Uighurs Affects Foreign Policy.

Lindsay, J. R. (2015). The impact of China on cybersecurity: Fiction and friction. International Security39(3), 7-47.

Zhou, Q. (2005). Conflicts over human rights between China and the US. Human Rights Quarterly27(1), 105-124.