From cooperative partnership to strategic competition: a review of China–U.S. relations 2009–2019


From 2009 to the first half of 2019, China–U.S. relations have experienced a gradual yet sustained downturn. Particularly since 2017, the bilateral relationship has suffered a rapid downward spiral in almost every dimension. By early 2019, more and more Chinese and American observers are warning that the two countries may be moving toward a long-term, full-scale confrontation. This article reviews the 10-year deterioration of bilateral ties in three stages and analyzes the context behind and reasons for the steady downturn. Internal developments in the two countries have driven the changes in U.S.–China relations. Bilateral tensions in the realms of geostrategy, ideology, economics and trade, and international security are escalating and intensifying. Such a trend is unlikely to be reversed without major changes in world politics or the two countries’ domestic politics. The greatest probability, as we see it, will be a continued downturn in the U.S.–China relationship with many bumps and stumbling blocks along the way. The best prospect both sides can hope for may be the Chinese saying dou-er-bu-po, or “fighting without breaking.”

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The authors are indebted to Zhao Jianwei for his contribution to the writing of this article.

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Correspondence to Wang Jisi.

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Jisi, W., Ran, H. From cooperative partnership to strategic competition: a review of China–U.S. relations 2009–2019. China Int Strategy Rev. 1, 1–10 (2019).

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  • China–U.S. relations
  • Strategic distrust
  • Domestic politics
  • Foreign policy