Trade wars and negotiations have been in existence since antiquity. Economic and financial ties between the United States and China were long considered the stabilizer, the ballast, in their uneasy relationship. But developments during the last few years have severely challenged, if not completely altered, the nature of this, the world's most consequential bilateral relationship. To make sense of the escalating tensions between the two countries and their correspondent reflections in domestic and global politics and trade, this talk focuses on core historical episodes in US–China commercial relations from 1784 to the twenty-first century. We first revisit the Anglo-American overseas trade rivalry during the late eighteenth century, which spilled into the old China trade until the mid-nineteenth century of Qing China, followed by an examination of bilateral trade in the Gilded Age and up till today. We conclude with a few speculations on the future direction.
Dong WANG is distinguished professor of history, director of Wellington Koo Institute at Shanghai University and research associate of Harvard Fairbank Center since 2002. Books in English that she single-authored include China's Unequal Treaties: Narrating National History (2005), Managing God's Higher Learning: U.S.-China Cultural Encounter and Canton Christian College (Lingnan University), 1888–1952 (2007), and The United States and China: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (2013, winner of Choice Top 25 Books 2013). She edited "The United States, Asia, and the Pacific, 1815–1919," which appeared in The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) Guide: An Annotated Bibliography of American Foreign Relations since 1600 (2017). She has completed a new book, provisionally entitled When Antiquity Met Modernity: China's Gift to the World in the Early Twentieth Century.