The United States and China are deeply interdependent, with trade in goods between the two countries reaching a whopping $366 billion in 2009. But a growing number of influential people on both sides find that reality deeply alarming, albeit for different reasons.
In the United States, campaign ads this election season routinely blame trade with China for U.S. job losses. And in China, rising stars like Wang Yang, the Communist Party boss who governs China's booming southern province of Guangdong, fret that China's "traditional model is excessively dependent on international demand." In just the latest sign of this growing tension, the U.S. House of Representatives last month passed legislation seeking to raise the cost to China for its currency policies. All signs at the moment point toward increased trade and financial tension between the world's two economic giants.
A full-fledged trade war between the United States and China would be disastrous; thankfully, it's far from likely. Decision makers on both sides appear to have concluded that their trade disputes can be managed without undermining the entire U.S.-China relationship. Trade conflict is here to stay, but it is fast becoming a "new normal" in relations between Washington and Beijing.