When people look back on 2020, they will remember two main events: the coronavirus and the U.S.–China relations. The first is an obvious one, but what makes the latter so important?
The Economic and Trade Agreement between the U.S. and China
In January, U.S. President Donald Trump and China's Vice Premier Liu He signed the U.S.–China Phase One trade deal. As part of the new agreement, China pledged to spend $200 billion to close the imbalance, which would have been a big win for President Trump. Many thought this move signaled the end of the tumultuous relationship, but with the outbreak of the virus, things didn't go as planned.
At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, many criticized China for their mismanagement and obfuscation of their COVID-19 data, contributing these factors to the virus’s spread. To this day, many still distrust China, including President Trump. With a growing number of Americans disapproving of the little success the Trump administration had in an attempt to contain the virus, the President has been passing the blame on to China, escalating the tension between the two countries.
Xinjiang and Hong Kong
Human rights is another issue. China has refused to acknowledge any oppression against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang and the Hong Kong protestors. Instead, China issued a new security law, bypassing Hong Kong’s parliament. Many criticized this move to be extreme enough to end its autonomy. President Trump sided with such claims and has ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status while also ordering China to close its consulate in Houston. In turn, China has ordered the U.S. to close its consulate in Chengdu. However, President Trump seems unbothered by this, stating, "the trade deal means less to me now than when I made it."
What is the status of the deal now?
Currently, things are very different from the beginning of the year, but the deal is still on hold. On some level, both governments recognize that reintroducing last year’s tariffs will not help anyone, but the question is how long this status will hold. We can no longer expect an expanded deal like the one in January.
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