U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay

Stop the Migrant Crisis
Circulating the United States news cycle as of late is the migrant crisis at the border. From the conditions in which authorities hold migrants to the bills Congress is pushing, such as the Keeping Families Together Act and the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, migrants from Central America have captivated the news as well as the minds of most Americans. One might wonder why so many Central Americans are making their way to the border. This article will explore how increasing foreign aid may stop the migrant crisis.

The Migrant Crisis

The majority of migrants at the border are coming from Central America, specifically El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, or the Northern Triangle of Central America. These are some of the most dangerous countries, with each of them being on the top 10 list of most homicides in the world. People in these regions face violence, such as gender-based violence and gang violence, political instability and extreme poverty, which makes the perilous journey to the United States seem like the most optimistic of options.

These countries face factors that can help explain why people are fleeing their home countries at such a rate. Studies have found that for every 10 homicides in these all three countries, six children wish to enter the United States. In 2018, there were 51 homicides per 100,000, with around 3,340 homicides in El Salvador. Police attributed these murders to the two prominent gangs in El Salvador called MS13 and the Barrio 18. Guatemala had a homicide rate of 22.4 per 100,000 and Honduras had a homicide rate of 40 per 100,000, both being extremely high compared to the homicide rate of other Central and South American countries.

What Caused the Crisis?

One can possibly attribute the recent influx of migrants from these countries to the foreign aid cuts that the current administration has made. According to the State Department, the 2019 fiscal year cut nearly $700 million in funding to these countries. Some believe that these cuts would force people to stay in their countries while others believe that keeping the cuts would allow people to save their money and use it to immigrate to the United States.

The money the United States gave to Central America funds social programs in order to build these countries up and tackle the root causes of their problems. Some of these root causes are violence, lack of education, food insecurity and poverty. The money mainly funds social programs or government reform that would improve living conditions, incentivizing citizens to stay. These programs include after-school programs, programs to create jobs and programs that help strengthen police forces and the court systems.

How Foreign Aid Helps

In these cases, the foreign aid funding these programs and helping different social agencies and NGOs does in fact work. For example, in El Salvador, a United States funded program trains children for employment. The area that implemented this program saw that homicide rates lowered by 78 percent. The United States Global Leadership Commission also breaks down what the funding in each country does and the different programs it funds. In El Salvador, the commission focuses on improving the rule of law and citizen security. However, in Guatemala, funding focuses on fighting poverty, and in Honduras, funding goes towards fighting corruption. In all of these different endeavors, funding has made a positive difference and helped improve living conditions for citizens. This further shows that to stop the migrant crisis, the United States must increase foreign aid.

Conclusion

Using funding for these social programs allows Central Americans and their countries to grow, thrive and prosper. When a country succeeds and gives its citizens ample opportunities to be successful and live their life to the fullest, those citizens may want to stay in said country. Therefore, it seems that the only way to stop the migrant crisis would be an increase in foreign aid to give the Northern Triangle people a reason to stay in their homes and enjoy a better life in their own countries.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr