Have you been paying attention to China?
More importantly, have you been paying attention to what China has been doing for the past 10 years?
These questions have sprung up with increasing frequency in the past year as people have begun to realize the power that China now possesses. The typical apolitical American may have noticed when Hollywood started tailoring movies to appeal to the Chinese movie market. Those with a special interest in immigration (and xenophobia) may have known that Asian-Americans make up most of the new U.S. immigrant population with Chinese and Indian residents being the largest demographics. But the real indicator for most people was the announcement of the trade war.
On June 28, 2016, Trump spoke to a crowd in Pennsylvania as part of a campaign stop. This speech focused on trade and what Trump planned to do if he entered office. He told the crowd that:
China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization has enabled the greatest job theft in the history of our country… China cheated on its currency, added another trillion dollars to the trade deficit, and stole hundreds of billions of dollars in our intellectual property.
He positioned China as a thief describing the state’s actions as cheating and stealing. More importantly, he wanted the crowd to agree with him and view China as a thief. These were all justifications for his plan to rewrite the global trade rules. He continued detailing his goals for trade relations with China if he was elected:
I’m going to instruct my treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator, which should have been done years ago… if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, I will use every lawful — this is very easy. This is so easy. I love saying this. I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes…
Trump campaigned on a strongman stance of confronting China’s trade activities and using his presidential power to do so. He situated himself as the only one bold enough to do so and “stand-up” to a corrupt China. His campaign had many rallying cries like building a wall and putting Hillary in jail, which garnered a lot of criticism. In hindsight, his stance on China should have received more attention since it now seems likely it will potentially be the most impactful acts of his presidency.
The Trade War
He carried through with his campaign promise once he was elected in office. On January 22nd, 2018, Trump put a 30% tariff on foreign solar panels and a 20% tariff on the first 1.2 million units of washing machines imported from China. On March 22nd, 2018, Trump “entered a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on March 23 over China’s allegedly discriminatory patent licensing practices.” He asked the United States Trade Representative to apply tariffs on $50 billion Chinese goods, mostly high-tech items.
China responded on April 2nd by applying tariffs on 128 products from the US like soybeans, car, airplanes, and agriculture like nuts and fruit. Trump responded to these new tariffs by threatening to put tariffs on another $150 billion worth of Chinese imports.
The unofficial trade war was put on hold when Vice Premier Liu He, Xi’s economic advisor, visited the White House on May 15th and China agreed to reduce the US’s trade deficit with China. Liu said Washington and China had “reached consensus in developing a healthy trade relationship.”
However, on May 29th the White House announced their plans to put a 25% tariff on $50 billion of Chinese goods of which would be announced on June 15th. China warned the US not to impose these tariffs or else they would end their existing trade negotiations with the US that had begun just days ago.
June 15th rolled around, and Trump declared the new tariffs on $50 billion Chinese exports. China responded with their own tariffs on $50 billion of US exports. More tariffs from the US with retaliatory tariffs from China rolled out on July 6th. This is when China accused the US of starting “the largest trade war in economic history to date” and that they would be forced to retaliate in order to defend the interests of their country and people. Trump then threatened if China retaliated, he would put tariffs on another $500 billion worth of Chinese goods. This new threat would “put a tariff on place on 100% of US-China trade.”
The threats across both countries were making analysis, businesses, and industries seriously concerned for the economic distress as a result of these tariffs. China was not the only one making their voice heard in the trade war. Russia declared tariffs on the US and joined the “European Union, China, India, and Canada in complaining to the WTO about the US action.”
More tariffs rolled out on September 17th and China released retaliatory tariffs that covered “$110 billion of the $130 billion of US-China trade… almost 100% of the entire trading relationship.”
Recently, the trade war seemed to be at a truce. Increases in tariffs were postponed as Trump and Xi negotiated a 90-day trade war truce at G20 In Buenos Aires on December 1st, 2018.
But on that same day, things exploded from a trade war a cold war.
The chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in the Vancouver Airport in Canada on December 1st, 2018. The Trump administration’s Justice Department called for the arrest, in extradition to the U.S. “An action that is typically reserved for drug lords and arms dealers, not corporate executives.” The reason? The US accused Huawei of using “a Hong Kong shell company to sell products containing American components to Iran in contravention of sanctions.” Meng was released on bail set at $7.5 million.
“It feels kinda like a new Cold War with China. Is this how it starts? This arrest of the CFO in Vancouver. Is this how we officially say, ‘we’re coming for you?’”
“I have bad news for you Sean. The cold war has already started.”
The tensions between the US and China were something that I had started to seriously pay attention to earlier in the year. When I was traveling in London, I stopped in a lot of bookshops and would beeline to the politics and sociology sections because those were just the genre of books, I was interested in. I started to notice a new pattern with some of the books that I saw. They were outlining the rise of China and depicting the East overtaking the West. Often not through an optimistic lens but through a fearful lens. They weren’t shy of provoking images of Chinese Red Scare, strict authoritarian rule, and a cultural invasion of Chinese speaking rich foreigners.
I have to admit, when I flipped through those books and read some of what they were saying, I was scared too. But not of China. I had just come from China, I knew of their authoritarian rule and their censored internet. I had met Chinese people who embraced me as Asian-American, who criticized their government, and those who were pro-People’s Republic of China. I wasn’t scared of China per se. I was scared of the rise in anti-Chinese xenophobic rhetoric that I feared would start to escalate.
Trump saying China was “raping” the US was always one of his scarier moments on the campaign trail for me. Hearing rhetoric like that and seeing the accumulation of books prophesizing a Chinese overtaking the US, I knew I should start preparing myself for a war with China. In part because everyone involved in a war should prepare for it, but also because I may need to prepare myself for a possible resulting rise in Sinophobia and Sinophobic acts.
Our War with China Four-Part Series
This will be a four-part series. I predict the U.S. will increasingly expose Sinophobic ideas as China’s power continues to increase and threaten the U.S. global hegemony. This Sinophobia will not just be in the political rhetoric but potentially translate to an increase in hate crimes and racism to Asian folks.
The first part of this series will first look at how the US rose to its current position of global dominance and detail China’s rise as an economic superpower.
The second part will describe the current cold war between China and the US, what the US sees as a threat, and some future outlooks on relations between the two states.
The third part will look at how white supremacy and the Western hegemony are closely linked. It will also detail cases where racism was used by the US to justify war with Islamophobia during the War on Terror and Japanese internment camps during WWII.
The fourth part will detail Sinophobia in the US and how hate crimes against Chinese people are already rising in places like Canada and California.
Finally, part five will outline some of the current troubling rhetoric from the US around China and Chinese people and conclude the series with final thoughts.
Part I will be published on Thursday, December 20th.
 Lindsay N. Smith, “Asian-Americans Make Up Most of the New U.S. Immigrant Population,” National Geographic. National Geographic, Dec 16, 2018, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2018/09/asian-immigrants-latin-americans-united-states-study-news/, (accessed Dec 16 2018).
 TIME staff, “Read Donald Trump’s Speech on Trade,” TIME. TIME, Jun 28, 2016, http://time.com/4386335/donald-trump-trade-speech-transcript/, accessed Dec 17 2018.
 Glenn Hess, “U.S. files complaint over China’s patent policies,” Chemical and Engineering News 96, No. 14 (2018), https://cen.acs.org/policy/intellectual-property/US-files-complaint-over-Chinas/96/i14.
 Thomas Biesheuvel, “As China Fires Back, in Trade War, Here are the Winners and Losers,” Bloomberg. Bloomberg, Apr 4, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-04/as-china-fires-back-in-trade-war-here-are-the-winners-and-losers, accessed Dec 17 2018.
 “U.S., China Strike Trade Deal, Ending Threat of Protective Tariffs,” Caixin. Caixin Global, May 20, 2018, https://www.caixinglobal.com/2018-05-20/us-china-strike-trade-deal-ending-threat-of-protective-tariffs-101253055.html, accessed Dec 17 2018.
 Danielle Paquette David J. Lynch and Emily Rauhala, “As Trump’s trade war starts, China vows retaliation,” The Washington Post, The Washington Post, Jul 6, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/china-fires-back-at-us-tariffs-vows-to-defend-its-core-interests/2018/07/06/f42fc812-8091-11e8-a63f-7b5d2aba7ac5_story.html?utm_term=.bf48deec0ab3, accessed Dec 17, 2018.
 Motley Fool Staff, “The U.S.-China Trade War, Explained,” The Motley Fool. The Motley Fool, Sep 30, 2018, https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/09/30/the-us-china-trade-war-explained.aspx, accessed Dec 17, 2018.
 Danielle Paquette David J. Lynch and Emily Rauhala, “As Trump’s trade war starts, China vows retaliation,”.
 Motley Fool Staff, “The U.S.-China Trade War, Explained,”.
 Dorcas Wong and Alexander Chipman Koty, “The US-China Trade War: A Timeline,” China Briefing. China Briefing, Dec 3, 2018, http://www.china-briefing.com/news/the-us-china-trade-war-a-timeline/, accessed Dec 17, 2018.
 Sean Rameswaram, interview with Alex Ward, “Wait, why did Canada arrest a Chinese CFO?” Today Explained. Vox, podcast audio, https://www.podbean.com/media/share/dir-sxmhh-52fcd75, Dec 7, 2018.
 Charlie Campbell, “It’s Hard to Overstate How Big a Deal the Huawei CFO’s Arrest Could Be,” TIME. TIME, Dec 10, 2018, http://time.com/5475127/huawei-meng-wanzhou-arrest/, accessed Dec 17, 2018.
 Julia Horowitz Alberto Moya and Scott McLean, “Facing extradition to the US, Huawei’s CFO is released on bail in Canada,” CNN Business. CNN, Dec 12, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/11/tech/huawei-meng-wanzhou-bail-decision/index.html, accessed Dec 17, 2018.
 Sean Rameswaram, interview with Alex Ward, “Wait, why did Canada arrest a Chinese CFO?”.