Globalization has changed the dynamics between the United States and China as each has found a competitive advantage in working together on a number of fronts, and these include scientific discovery and industry. With these changing relationships between the U.S. and China which see organizations and individuals from the two countries working more closely together, there have also been increased concerns about politics, stability and trust. It remains to be seen whether the positive or negative aspects begin to weigh down the perceptions of this new relationship.
The competitive advantage
Competitive advantages have come in areas such as manufacturing and research. There has been a great competitive advantage for many companies that have chosen to outsourced manufacturing to China or other partnerships. The advantage for consumers in this case is the lower cost of goods and products, and for many companies it allows for more competitive pricing when Chinese labor is used.
Collaboration has also become more common between scientists in the two countries, even in potential sensitive areas such as nanotechnology (Tang & Shapira, 1-16). This allows for diverse perspectives to come together, which may result in innovative new discoveries or uses for existing knowledge and practice. It also allows for the development of certain research that can benefit from advantages in one country over the other, such as costs or regulation.
American goods and companies are often welcomed by Chinese consumers, while American consumers welcome the lower prices for products that Chinese involvement can bring. This would seem to be a best case scenario where each country, and its people, sees positive outcomes.
These are examples of where shared goals have led to working together in a successful way. Still there can be concerns on a larger scale than that of two organizations meeting their objectives.
The “made in China” issue
China has a very large population, and it should be a cause for concern that China is able to supply labor at a fraction of the cost of American labor. The American economy runs on jobs. Without jobs, American households do not have the income to pay their mortgages and rent, and the economy begins to fall apart.
While on one hand the outsourcing of manufacturing to China and other developing nations has resulted in lower costs for many products, if the evolving trend continues it may be devastating for Americans and the industries that depend on American consumers. While there are many positions in America that require proximity, such as retail, many knowledge based jobs could also end up being outsourced, creating a void for educated American workers much like the void that was left when manufacturing positions went to cheaper countries.
There can also be concerns about quality issues regarding products which come from China, and some of these are a great cause for concern given safety issues. For example, Reuters (n.p.) recently reported in the New York Times that Chinese suppliers to major multinational brands including McDonalds and Taco Bell had been re-using food supplies to ensure profits did not decrease. It was the Chinese units of this American company who had made these poor decisions, endangering many people and ultimately costing the firm billions in lost revenue (Reuters, n.p.). Other concerns have included crops and raw foods which are laced with or contaminated with heavy metals or ingredients which are not allowable in foods as well as dangerous practices which result in products that do not meet American safety standards (Reuters, n.p.).
Political considerations and other issues
It was not until, as the legend goes, President Nixon went to China and played a friendly game of ping pong that the two nations began to open up the possibilities of a better working relationship. While the economic relationship between the U.S. and China is one which is often very successful, there is still considerable distrust between the two nations’ governments. There have been accusations of attempts to hack into the database of the other, as well as concerns about security given that China maintains close relationships with countries that are not friendly to the U.S., such as Iran, North Korea and Russia. It is only in the past few decades that thawed relationships between the nations have allowed for the growth in working together, as previous to that the ideological differences were too great to allow for much interaction.
Just recently there was an issue over the South China Sea when the Chinese military made a dangerous intercept of American navy warplanes, and this is just one example of the continued incidents which make clear that the relations between the two countries are not yet fully on friendly footing (Vanden Brook, n.p.).
Given this, many Americans therefore also have concerns about Chinese investment in American enterprise and property. There is great potential for the Chinese, and even their government, to gain control over the American economy if the American people are indebted to them or if the Chinese become owners of the means of production there. This might be a concern especially given ideological differences between communism and capitalism as such philosophical differences might result in economic actions.
Another area for potential concern, given the distrust and potential security issues between the two nations, is the continued evolution of the research relationship. There may be cases where data or scientific investigation is contaminated or falsified if the Chinese government feels that it poses a threat, and this could cause harm to American scientists and American companies. Further, it can create chaotic situations if uncertainty leads to sudden pulling of investments or funding.
For others, the concern is the durability and stability of the economic and other relationships between American and Chinese companies as well as their governments (Lampton, 51-68). If political issues were to interfere with the dynamics of scientific, industrial and other relationships, the uncertainty could derail progress on a number of fronts, and this would be a negative outcome for both countries in terms of evolving collaborative ventures.
Overall there is agreement among many that, regardless of the focus on concern, a new type of power relationship is needed between China and the United States (Zeng, 422). Consultation, discussion and clear expectations may help the two nations to have a better understanding and therefore better working relationships. Ensuring shared protocols and standards is another area where investors, analysts and consumers may benefit by having more trust in the relationships and products. This could have a number of results and outcomes, since it might result in one which tensions raise again, or it might result in a more relaxed and trusting relationship with fewer concerns about security or certainty.
The evolving relationship between China and the United States is one that has benefitted both countries, but it remains a cautious for a number of reasons. There are political, quality and other concerns with regard to working together. In many cases it has been successful, but there remains much to be worked out between the two nations before the relationship has fully evolved into one where trust is no longer an issue. While there are new agreements and understandings between the countries, continued positive outcomes for both populations, then governments and companies have the best possible future.
- Lampton, David M. “A new type of major-power relationship: seeking a durable foundation for US-China ties.” Asia Policy 16.1 (2013).
- Reuters. “Jail Terms and Fines for Supplier to McDonald’s and Yum Brands in China”. New York Times, February 1. (2016). Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/02/business/international/jail-terms-and-fines-for-supplier-to-mcdonalds-and-yum-brands-in-china.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FConsumer%20Safety%20and%20China&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection&_r=0
- Tang, Li, and Philip Shapira. “China–US scientific collaboration in nanotechnology: Patterns and dynamics.” Scientometrics 88.1 (2011).
- Vanden Brook, Tom. “Chinese fighters buzz Navy patrol plane”. USA Today, May 19. (2016). Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/05/18/chinese-fighters-buzz-navy-patrol-plane/84560640/
- Zeng, Jinghan. “Constructing a “new type of great power relations”: the state of debate in China (1998-2014).” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 18.2 (2016).