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The U.S. is by far the biggest market for Chinese exports and has been a huge source of modern technology for China over more than three decades. The astonishing growth of China over that period would have been inconceivable without the U.S. connection. This has come at a cost for many Americans - wages have stagnated, along with tax collections. China has now listed 35 high-tech industries in which it is determined to push its producers to the global frontier, and has amassed foreign currency reserves of over $3.5 trillion.
Americans have moved from a policy of engaging China to frustration because it refuses to play the Americans' game - both in the economic and foreign policy spheres. China definitely has not signed onto 'American exceptionalism,' nor its turn towards 'China containment.' China sees the U.S. as the only superpower for the next 20 years, but its ability to control international affairs as already decreasing - especially after its disastrous forays into Iraq and Afghanistan, withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, massive cyber-spying on even friendly nations, and failing to join the U.N. on the Law of the Sea.
Yet, despite its enormous growth, China is still poor (88th in per capita GDP) vs. the U.S. China has become the first poor country with the title of second largest power in the world. Co-author Nina Hachigian pairs leading scholars from the U.S. and China about key aspects of relations between the two nations, including traded/investment, economic development, monetary policy, climate change and clean energy, and political systems.
Until the mid-1990s, China earned over half of its foreign currency through exports of raw materials such as coal, oil, grain, etc. In the 1970s, China also exported oil to the U.S. No longer. Demand for resources by the U.S. and China are staggering, especially within China. In 2011, China consumed 485 of the world's zinc production, 50% of lead and copper, and 45% of aluminum. China also is the world's largest importer of oil. In 2010, China consumed almost half the world's pork, one-third of its rice supplies, and one-fourth of its soybeans. On the other hand, 28% of China's energy goes into making products for export - China actually is 85% self-reliant in terms of total energy supply.
With government political and financial support, Chinese companies often undertake projects other multinationals consider too risky - investing in Sudan, in Zambian copper mines that have not been operational for over a decade, and a nickel mine in New Guinea that others regarded as unprofitable. U.S. imports of natural resources, while still large, have declined as it has shifted away from manufacturing.
Beijing also earns diplomatic points for supporting infrastructure development in other nations - better enabling Chinese companies to transport their resources and the local nations ability to develop; examples include Venezuela, Cambodia, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo. China is now the world's largest developer of dams - about 70% of current construction. China is also seen as moving much faster than Western governments - it doesn't hold meetings about environmental impact, human rights, and/or governance. On the other hand, its poor environmental and safety practices have caused conflicts with locals, as well as its preference for importing Chinese labor for massive projects.
On the U.S. side, sanctions on doing business have left natural resource and oil companies at a significant disadvantage vs. countries (including China) that have not done so - eg. Iran, Sudan. Many developing countries also accuse the U.S. of tying aid to particular political allies or using aid as a reward of punishments.
The crown jewel of American capitalism has now become its financial sector. That sector caused the financial crisis and still contributes to the nation's current account deficit. Meanwhile, our political system is mired in gridlock/ideology.
On the military side, Americans wonder why China has modernized and continues to spend so much on its military when its environment has gotten more peaceful. The Chinese, in turn, ask why the U.S. spends so much more on its military every year.