The U.S. and China are on a lose-lose course

The U.S. and China are on a lose-lose course

  • The U.S.-China relationship has survived obstacles and setbacks in the past.
  • But today, amid high-level calls for both an economic and cultural decoupling, we have to consider what a rupture would look like — and its catastrophic consequences.

In mid-July, the White House floated the idea of denying visas to Chinese Communist Party members and their families — an estimated 270 million people in total. Those affected would not be just high-level officials: children of low-level workers and bureaucrats could also lose the chance to study in America, as well as young people from poorer backgrounds who joined the CCP for professional and education opportunities.

The proposal incited criticism on multiple levels, but it’s only the latest indication — among many — of a mutual pulling back of relations between China and the U.S., brought on by the actions of both governments. Taken together, the actions represent a “soft” or cultural decoupling, one which runs parallel to a larger economic decoupling meant to separate supply chains and break financial ties. This soft decoupling brings a new and largely unexplored risk: the unraveling of people-to-people ties that have led to real collaboration between the two countries since diplomatic relations were normalized in 1979.