Donald Trump Presidency and the Transformation of Sino-American Relations: Does Asymmetric Economic Interdependence Matter?

  • Published : 2021.12.31


Even though Sino-American relations of the Donald Trump era were perceived as predominately confrontational, with a symbolic trade war between the two, the scale of economic interdependencies between the United States and China results in either a need for collaboration or in serious losses on both sides in the case of lack of cooperation. The paper aims at analyzing economic relations between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China at the time of the Trump presidency. Analysis is based on the complex interdependence theory of Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye. The main hypothesis analyzed in the paper states: Asymmetric interdependence between the People's Republic of China and the United States of America limits the scope, intensity and length of a trade war. For the sake of the paper, economic interdependence will be analyzed. Apart from the reference to the state of the art, the document analysis and descriptive statistics are to be applied in the paper.



  1. Allison, G. (2017). Destined for war: Can America and China escape Thucydides's trap? Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  2. Beckley, M. (2021). The End of the Affair: U.S.-China Relations Under Trump. In Renshon S.A., Suedfeld P. (Ed), The Trump Doctrine and the Emerging International System. The Evolving American Presidency, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan (pp. 227-245).
  3. Bergsten, C.F. (2018). China and the United States: The contest for global economic leadership. China & World Economy, 26(5), 12-37
  4. Boylan, B.M., McBeath, J. & Wang, B. (2021) US-China Relations: Nationalism, the Trade War, and COVID-19. Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci. 14, 23-40
  5. Bown, Ch. (2021). US-China phase one tracker: China's purchases of US goods, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  6. Bureau of Economic Analysis (2021) Table 2.2. U.S. Trade in Services, by Type of Service and by Country or Affiliation,url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  7. Bureau of Economic Analysis. (2021). U.S. Trade in Goods and Services by Selected Countries and Areas, 1999-present, Table 7-9 url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  8. Burke, J. (2000). U.S. investment in China worsens trade Deficit-U.S. firms build export-oriented production base url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  9. Barshefsky, C., Greenberg, E. G. & Huntsman, J.M. (2017). Reinvigorating U.S. Economic Strategy in the Asia Pacific: Recommendations for the Incoming Administration: A Report of the CSIS Asia Economic Strategy Commission, Lanham-Boulder-New York-London: Center for Strategic and International Studies-Rowman and Littlefield, 2017, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  10. Chang, Bloch J. (1997). Commercial Diplomacy. In Vogel E.F. (Ed), Living with China: U.S./China Relations in the Twenty-First Century, (pp. 185-216). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
  11. Chen, Z., & Zhang, X. (2020). Chinese conception of the world order in a turbulent Trump era. The Pacific Review, 33(3-4), 438-468.
  12. Cheng, E. (2021) China is still behind on buying enough US goods to fulfill 'phase one' trade deal, CNBC, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  13. Chong, T., & Li, X. (2019). Understanding the China - US trade war: Causes, economic impact, and the worst-case scenario. Economic and Political Studies, 7(2), 185-202.
  14. Congressional Research Service. (2019). U.S.-China Tariff Actions by the Numbers, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  15. Congressional Research Service. (2019). U.S.-China Trade and Economic Relations: Overview, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  16. Copeland, D. (2015). Economic Interdependence and War. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  17. Department of Defense. (2018). Summary of the National Defense Strategy: Sharpening the American Military's Competitive Edge url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  18. Dumbaugh, K. (1998). China's Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) Status: Congressional Consideration, 1989-1998 CRS Report for Congress, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  19. Feng, L. (2013). China, the United States, and the East Asian Security Order. Issues & Studies©, 49 (1), 99-140.
  20. Grabowski, M. (2019). Regionalism: Cooperation and Conflict. In Mania A., Grabowski M. & Pugacewicz T. (Ed.), Global Politics in the 21st Century: Between Regional Cooperation and Conflict (pp. 15-24). Berlin: Peter Lang Verlag.
  21. Grabowski M. & Pugacewicz T. (2019). Western IR Theories: Analytical Patterns. In Grabowski M. & Pugacewicz T. (Ed.), Application of International Relations Theories in Asia and Africa (pp. 25-59), Peter Berlin: Lang Verlag.
  22. Grabowski, M. & Stefanowski, J. (2019). Regional Integration in Central Asia in the Shadow of Sino-Russian Rivalry. In: Mania A., Grabowski M. & Pugacewicz T. (Ed.), Global Politics in the 21st Century: Between Regional Cooperation and Conflict, (pp. 69-108). Berlin: Peter Lang Verlag.
  23. Goldstein, A. (2020). US - China rivalry in the twenty-first century: Deja vu and Cold War II. China International Strategy Review, 2, 48-62.
  24. Jeong B, Lee H. US-China commercial rivalry, great war and middle powers. International Area Studies Review. 2021;24(2):135-148
  25. Kent, A. (2002). The Role of International Organizations Global Governance. China's International Socialization. 2002; 8 (3): 343-364.
  26. Keohane, R.O. & Joseph, S. & Nye, J.S. (2011). Power and Interdependence. Boston: Pearson, 2011, fourth edition.
  27. Lampton, D. M. (2001). Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  28. Lawrence, S., Campbel, C., Fefer, R., Leggett, J., Lum, T., Martin, M. & Schwarzenberg, T. (2019). U.S.-China Relations, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  29. Lee, Y. (2018). Economic Interdependence and Peace: a Case Comparison Between the US-China and US-Japan Trade Disputes. East Asia, 35, 215-232.
  30. Lukin Alexander (2019) The US-China Trade War and China's Strategic Future, Survival, 61:1, 23-50
  31. Macikenaite, V. (2020). China's economic statecraft: the use of economic power in an interdependent world. Journal of Contemporary East Asia Studies, 9 (2),108-126.
  32. Min, Y. (2021). The COVID-19 Effect: US-China Narratives and Realities. The Washington Quarterly (vol. 44, no. 1, pp 89-105).
  33. Nye Joseph S. Jr. (2020) Power and Interdependence with China, The Washington Quarterly, 43:1, 7-21
  34. Purdy, M. (2020). China's Economy, in Six Charts, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  35. Rosencrance, R. (1981). Reward, Punishment, and Interdependence. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 25 (1), 31-46.
  36. Sachs, J. (2019). Will America Create a Cold War with China. China Economic Journal (vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 100-108).
  37. Sheng, L., Zhao, H. & Zhao, J. (2019). Why Will Trump Lose the Trade War?. China Economic Journal (vol. 12, mo. 2, pp. 137-159).
  38. Smith, M. & Xie. H. (2009). The European Union, China and the United States: Complex Interdependence and Bi-Multilateralism in Commercial Relations. European Studies, 27, 167-185.
  39. The Asia Foundation. (2016). Strategic Recommendations for the Incoming U.S. President of Foreign Policy Towards Asia. In Asian Views on America's Role in Asia: The Future of Rebalance, San Francisco, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  40. The Policy Planning Staff. (2020). The Elements of China Challenge. U.S. Department of State, Washington.
  41. Tu, X., Du, Y., Lu, Y. & Lou, C. (2000). US-China Trade War: Is Winter Coming for Global Trade?' Journal of Chinese Political Science (Vol. 25, 2000, pp. 199-240).
  42. United States Census Bureau. (2021). Foreign Trade, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  43. United States Census Bureau. (2021). Trade in Goods with China, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  44. United States Census Bureau, (2020). Trade in Goods with World, Seasonally Adjusted, url: accessed June 30, 2021).
  45. United States Trade Representatives. (2020). Economic and Trade Agreement Between the Government of The United States of America and the Government of The People's Republic Of China, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  46. U.S. Department of the Treasury. (2021). Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities (Historical Data) url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  47. Wang, D. (2010). China's Trade Relations with the United States in Perspective. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 39 (3),165-210.
  48. Wang, Z. & Sun, Z. (2021). From Globalization to Regionalization: The United States, China, and the Post-Covid-19 World Economic Order. Journal of Chinese Political Science, 26, 69-87.
  49. White House. (2017). National Security Strategy of the United States of America, White House, Washington, url: (last accessed June 30, 2021).
  50. Yu, M. & Zhang, R. (2019). Understanding the Recent Sino-U.S. Trade Conflict. China Economic Journal (vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 160-174).
  51. Zuo, X. (2021). The Trump Effect: China's New Thoughts on the United States. The Washington Quarterly (vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 107-127).