A smiling Barack Obama met the Chinese President Hu Jintao back in November. It was Obama’s first trip to China, and observers said relations seemed to be good. However, behind the smiles, there were hidden tensions, which have now come back to the surface.
Analyst David Firestein, at the EastWest Institute, said: “The Chinese are obviously never pleased when the US president or other senior US leaders meet with the Dalai Lama. They’re never pleased when the United States sells arms to Taiwan, as has recently been announced. But at the same time, I think the American policy makers understand the Chinese concerns, and understand that these kinds of decisions are going to have these kinds of consequences.”
The sale of US arms to Taiwan was announced at the end of last month, a deal worth more than
4.4 billion euros. The Chinese anger was to be expected, with Taiwan considered by Beijing as a Chinese province.
But the tension is not just political. Economic issues are also causing headaches. US tariffs on tyres from China, for example, caused Beijing to slap on its own tarrifs.
What Washington sees as the under-valuation of the Chinese currency is another issue, deepening the US trade deficit. Beijing owns the equivalent of more than 550 billion euros of US debt.
David Firestein said: “That enormous figure puts in perspective the smaller actions that occur, and I think that neither the Chinese leadership nor the US leadership have any interest in seeing the relationship kind of go off the rails.”
On top of all this is the recent concern about internet freedom. This after the web company Google threatened to pull out of China over allegations of censorship and the hacking of email accounts.