Now that a Chinese surveillance balloon has been shot out of the air by the U.S. Air Force off the Atlantic coastline, American and Chinese officials are dealing with the fallout from Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s canceled diplomatic visit at a time of historically poor relations between the two powers.
Mr. Blinken was expected to be the first secretary of state to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping since Rex Tillerson in 2017, and there was no shortage of important issues to discuss in an effort to improve ties, not least the possibility of war over Taiwan.
This episode of History As It Happens focuses on the key events and decisions that led to today’s growing conflict between the U.S. and China over global primacy. The tension between the world’s two largest economies is not only the result of recent controversies, namely China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in late 2019 and former President Donald Trump’s trade war. China’s rise as a global economic, if not military, power capable of challenging U.S. influence in the Indo-Pacific dates to the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 after 15 years of negotiations.
“Threat perceptions tend to spike between great powers when power differentials narrow,” said Andrew Scobell, a distinguished fellow with the China program at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, referring to China’s dramatic economic growth and trade advantages obtained over the past two decades. “The other factor that comes into play here is that when you start to see the other side as a rival, you tend to overestimate their hostility.”
Listen to Mr. Scobell discuss the fundamental conflicts at the heart of U.S.-China competition by downloading this episode of History As It Happens.