From the rise of terrorism to trade deficits, many problems face the United States and China today. In this blog post I'll list off every major issue between the United States and China, their backstories, and what they could mean for the future of Sino-US relations.
Rivalries #1: Diaoyudao/Senkaku Islands dispute
The Diaoyudao/Senkaku islands are a series of small uninhabited islands located near the coast of Taiwan in the Ryukyu Islands Chain. The islands are called the Diaoyudao Islands by the Chinese, and the Senkaku islands by the Japanese.
Aerial photo of the Diaoyudao/Senkaku islands. They are small, uninhabited, and mostly barren of life. However, they are the source of many political troubles.
Both China and Japan claim the Diaoyudao/Senkaku islands and the exclusive economic zone near them, and both nations have presented extensive historical evidence to backup their claims. The evidence provided by both countries stretch back hundreds of years and is very interesting to read, and I truly suggest you read both sides and decide for yourself which nation is correct, but point of this blog post however, is not to debate which side has the better claim, but how the dispute affects relations between China and the United States.
Both China and Japan have a series of territorial disputes against each other and their neighbors, however, this dispute is particularly important because it has involved significant military attention of both countries. As both China and Japan often send their navies to that region in an effort to intimidate the other. Using this conflict, both nations are also inflamming nationalism and hate for the other country among its population.
As important as Japan is as a nation, its military is nothing compared to China's, the only reason that China has not yet seized these islands by force yet is because of Japan's powerful ally, the United States. The United States has promised Japan to come to its aid in the event of war with China, and the US is the primary reason why the Chinese Communist government, though daily broadcasting propaganda about China's "rightful historical claim" to those islands, have been very hesitant in actually attempting to take them.
The United States's protective policy towards Japan is greatly straining relations between the two nations, as many Chinese people believe that the United States is standing in the way between China's rise from the humiliations of the 20th century. Many Chinese people also consider the present territorial dispute as a part of the feud between China and Japan that has been in place since the First Sino-Japanese War.
Many Chinese people, encouraged by their government, believe in a conspiracy theory that the United States is secretly plotting the downfall of China and is trying to surround China by occupying or letting its allies occupy the islands next to China. Most Chinese people view this island dispute as part of America's "encirclement" strategy, which is causing hostile attitudes towards America.
Rivalries #2: South China Sea Crises
Due to the vast amount of the natural resource offered, the massive amounts of trade that flows through, and the strategic and military value of the islands located in the South China Sea region, pretty much every single nation near it have conflicting claims over those islands
China's "Nine-Dash Line", supposedly representing China's historical territory and land that was taken from it after World War II. The nationalist Chinese Government-in-exile in Taiwan also claims the area in the nine-dash line.
If you're old enough to be reading this post, you've probably already heard of the South China Sea dispute. While the American media likes the point at China as the instigator of the crises, the truth is that every neighboring country is at fault. Instead of offering to give up their claims and for all nearby countries to join together and share that region, all the countries surrounding the South China Sea have instead chosen to rush and plant their flag on the first uninhabited piece of wet rock they see. Leading to an extremely complicated political situation that can warrant its own series of blog posts.
While all the other claims in the region are based on distance (ex. my country is closest to these islands, so they belong to my country) China's claims are based on history (ex. my country used to own these islands hundreds of years ago, so they belong to us). Before the fall of the Qing Dynasty, China used to occupy the South China Sea islands, however after the collapse of the empire, the new Chinese government was too politically and militarily weak to occupy those islands, and so neighboring countries and colonial powers moved in. Now that the Chinese government is strong again, they claim historical ownership over these islands and the entire south China sea. While most American and western media claims that China is doing so for the natural resources in that region and to demonstrate its military power, I have an alternative theory, which I will discuss at the end of this blog post.
Similar to the Diaoyudao/Senkaku islands dispute mentioned above, if it wasn't for the United States, China, being a major world power, can single handedly defeat all of the other nations and completely occupy the South China Sea. However, to challenge China's claims and prevent China from upsetting the balance of power in the region, the United States often sends carriers and battlecruisers to China's claimed regions and next to China's artificial islands.
The Chinese people and the government are intensely nationalistic, and they view America's involvement in the South China Sea as a threat to China, and many Chinese also view this as part of the conspiracy theory to surround as China mentioned above.
Time Lapse of a underwater reef being converted into an artificial islands by the Chinese.
My personal theory regarding why China has suddenly became so territorially aggressive in recent years:
Disclaimer: This is just my personal theory based on my eleven years of experience living in China and my knowledge of the Chinese Government and the Chinese People, I don't really have that much evidence to support it, so take this theory with a grain of salt.