Baker Scholar Projects

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2023


Since 1978, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has long been viewed as an economic trading partner of the United States of America (US). The PRC has grown to be an economic powerhouse, and the US directly helped with that process and still benefits from it. However, during the mid-2010’s, US rhetoric began to turn sour against the PRC. The American government rhetoric toward the PRC, beginning with the Obama administration, switched. As Trump’s administration came along, they bolstered this rhetoric from non-friendly to more or less hostile. Then, Biden’s administration strengthened Trump’s rhetoric. Over the past ten years or so, the world has seen the US shift its view of China from a trading partner to now an international threat. The question this paper will attempt to answer is why did this switch happen?

I hypothesize that the US has switched its view because of seven reasons. Some of the reasons that are listed first are fairly logical, while others are more complex. The factors I examine include: (1) the American capacity to make the switch, (2) the American realization that they must take a realist approach to international affairs in order to maintain hegemony, (3) the rise of Xi Jinping, (4) the China debate in the US, (5) national security concerns taking precedence over US business interests, (6) PRC economic and research espionage, theft, and aggression, and (7) human rights abuses. The following paper will examine these factors one at a time to assess why and how they played a part in the United States shifting its view of China. The results of this paper show that the United States’ shift has been a slow one, however, there are ample reasons why they have shifted. Furthermore, the results show that it is a highly complex issue. Particularly, the most important factors were the American reclamation of realism regarding international affairs, the CCP’s nationalistic rhetoric, and the American’s obtaining a better understanding of the PRC. The factor that is least important, however still contributed to the American switch and provided moral motivation, are the CCP human rights abuses.

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