US-China Relations After the Election with Ambassador Kurt Tong

Mar 30, 2021

by Joel Reyes

The long standing relations between China and the United States has remained the center of foreign policy and international relations debate. With China’s centric approach to economy consistently combating the open market operations of several nations in East Asia, as well as the United States, there remains no doubt that work needs to be done to fix these current relations amongst these nations before global and trade tensions heighten, and (at the extreme level) war ensues. In an interview conducted by the World Affairs Council on November 5th 2020, Ronan O’Malley discusses with American Ambassador Kurt Tong a variety of issues in regards to United States and China relations.

Tong’s opinion on China’s changes on policies and tariffs

As the interview begins, O’Malley positions the conversation towards the most recent changes China has made in an attempt to align more closely with the open market economy and to prompt peaceful development. Tong notes that China’s actions with their long term economy has fluctuated. As a result of what appears to be a “Lenonist” approach, Chinese economy has seemed to serve China poorly in regards to the foreign market.

While China, in recent years, has better adapted towards foreign investment, freer reign in market forces, and even joined the World Trade Organization, China still has a long way to go in becoming more economically accessible. If China continues to approach the foreign economy as a state-controlled nation, the United States and other foreign powers will continue to push China to keep reforming or they will enact stricter tariffs and economic regulations towards the Chinese economy.

Tong’s comparison of the Trump and Biden administration on Chinese relations While interviewed in the middle of the 2020 presidential election, when results were not finalized, Tong occasionally references comparisons between how Joe Biden might approach foreign policy issues if elected and how Donald Trump will continue to approach it if re-elected.

Tong argues that Trump’s strategies with Chinese relations oscillate immensely and are inconsistent. He continues this notion, stating that it is not just Trump who lacks properly executed strategy but his administration as well. The specific example Tong brings up occurs during the beginning of his presidency. For the first two years, Trump was in “negotiation mode” with China. However, he quickly changed his stance without proper warning by “slapping” unwarranted tariffs towards China.

Furthermore, Tong argues that Trump and his administration have applied their energy towards non-pressing matters and away from international relations. If re-elected, Tong believes he will continue to de-prioritize foreign issues.

For Biden, Tong believes that his objectives, not just in foreign issues but in general, will be much more clearer. He believes that Biden’s approach will be much more cooperative. Biden may not immediately prioritize economic relations outside of the country, but instead focus on the domestic economy. Improvements in the open market economy will simply be a product of adjusting economic policy in accordance with the coronavirus and building more infrastructure within the United States.


How US and Chinese relations affect other East Asian Countries (Japan, North Korea, Taiwan, and South Korea)

While the primary focus of conversation occurs between the United States and China, O’Malley and Tong sporadically incorporate how relationships and alliances between other East Asian nations play into international relations.

For instance, Tong incorporates how dependent North Korea is on China. In spite of the consistent fear of nuclear war or unwarranted attacks from this dictatorial nation, all China needs to do is cut off their borders and energy supply in order to catastrophically damage North Korea’s livelihood.

As North Korea becomes more of a threat, nations like Japan and South Korea fall back on the militaristic prowess of the United States. Tong explains that the United States does a lot to ensure this relationship is there. Without keeping nations like South Korea protected, The Republic of Korea may resort to the development of nuclear weaponry. This would further prompt an unstable relationship between North Korea, and go against long standing policy that discourages the spread and development of nuclear weaponry.

While it may not seem like it, maintaining these diplomatic relations is vital in order to ensure the continual flow of imports and exports. Disputes amongst East Asian nations and the United States could have underlying problems with the international economy.

How censorship affects finance in Hong Kong

While only briefly mentioned, one of the most interesting points of discussion concerned the state of Hong Kong. As Tong puts it, Hong Kong in China is the equivalent to London in the

United Kingdom. From being a world class financial center to an economic hub, Hong Kong creates a place in the international economy for China to prosper. However, in recent years, Hong Kong has increasingly heightened its take on censorship, essentially controlling the freedoms of “thought, information, and activity”.

In addition, Western journalists in Hong Kong are faced with a difficult operating environment. When expressing any form of negativity in regards to Chinese news, Western journalists are faced with serious consequences. As a result of the infringement of free speech, Hong Kong has seen economic concerns rise. This key example shows that human rights and economic policy are not mutually exclusive, and have the capacity to affect one another.


To learn more about Ambassador Tong’s view of the relations between the United States, and to see the interview conducted by Ronan O’Malley and WAC Houston, visit our Youtube channel by clicking the link: