The US-China relationship has always been precarious; due to ideological disagreements on many subjects such as internet censorship, civil rights, and humanitarian policy. Although they disagree on ideology, they are reliant on each other economically. Because China is the global center of manufacturing, and the US has the largest consumer market, they need each other to meet the aggregate supply and demand of both economies. Ever since Donald Trump took office in 2017, he has strained the US-China relationship even further. According to Brookings, "The Trump administration over the past two years has adopted an increasingly zero-sum, unilateralist, protectionist, and nativist 'America first' approach to the relationship." The Trump administration has also started a trade war by increasing tariffs on major Chinese exports like steel and aluminum. In response, China raised tariffs in the United States. With the US-China relationship already strained under the Trump administration, one single thing made it even more unstable: COVID-19.
The Coronavirus has impacted every corner of the world, infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands. Based on current scientific research, most people think that the virus originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China. Wet markets are marketplaces where meat, fruit, produce, and live animals are sold. Chinese wet markets have a history of spreading viruses; a wet market in Foshan, China was the cause of the SARS outbreak in 2004. According to Jason Baebuin of NPR, "Researchers think this virus probably mutated from a strain that's common in animals and then jumped over to humans…". What Beabuin posits that because many humans are handling different animals who might have a virus, the potential for contraction and spread is significant. Despite the mismanaged world efforts to contain the spread, the Trump Administration has worsened US-China relations by unilaterally shifting blame to the Chinese regime for being the originator. The fact that the Coronavirus (and many other viral outbreaks) started in China is the first reason why the Trump Administration has worsened US-China relations.
Additionally, Donald Trump has exacerbated the conflict between the two states explicitly made controversial remarks describing the virus. These include calling Covid-19 the "Chinese virus" and the "Kung Flu." These descriptions of the virus have sparked outrage in the media, the left, and some of the right as well. These remarks also offended the Chinese government and showcased Trump's xenophobia towards China. This is a clear result of the Trump administration's xenophobic "America First" foreign policy and its impact on their relationship.
Another factor in the deterioration of the US-China relationship is China's initial treatment of the outbreak. According to The Hill, "China covered the initial Wuhan outbreak silencing public health officials who identified the virus's global potential and allowing Wuhan's residents to travel internationally. It underreported infection rates to affect an image of competence, decreasing [the] accuracy of early modeling." The fact that China underreported the initial outbreak, along with the country's questionable policy on transparency with many international health organizations like the WHO, has ultimately deteriorated the US-China relationship. According to John Haltiwanger, a journalist for Business Insider, "President Donald Trump has essentially blamed China for the devastating scale of the coronavirus pandemic, slamming Beijing over its lack of transparency and warning that the US could 'cut off' its relationship with the Asian Country." Just as the administration is distancing itself from China with comments like these, there is a growing wave of Chinese resentment within the US citizenry as well. For example, the US public opinion is primarily skeptical if China is telling the full story of their deal with the virus.
Finally, I want to focus quickly on the relationship between health experts, president Trump. and how their relationship has impacted public opinion. Trump is downplaying its severity, while health experts are emphasizing the importance of the virus. Trump supporters follow the philosophy of skepticism; saying that you can't always trust the experts. This pro-trump ideology has been demonstrated in recent campaign rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix. Almost all attendees at the rallies were not wearing masks and practicing none of the guidelines the CDC has recommended. In this case, the supporters are not trusting what the experts, the CDC, say, and follow whatever the leader, Trump, says. On the other hand, the anti-trump supporters are choosing not to follow what the government is saying and only to follow what the experts are saying. The difference in pro and anti-trump ideologies have ultimately made a massive split in the US public opinion and unnecessarily politicized the response to the virus.
To conclude, Covid-19 has strained US-China relations and exacerbated existing ideological rifts while xenophobic rhetoric from President Trump and a Chinese lack of cooperation and transparency have increased tensions.