China and the United States are locked in an increasingly intense rivalry when it comes to national security and economic competition, with American leaders frequently identifying China as their greatest long-term challenger.
Yet the world’s two largest economies, which together represent 40 percent of the global output, remain integral partners in many ways. They sell and buy important products from each other, finance each other’s businesses, provide a home to millions of each other’s people, and create apps and movies for audiences in both countries.
As Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen meets with top Chinese officials in Beijing this week, her challenge will be to navigate this multifaceted relationship, which ranges from conflict to cooperation. Here are some figures that illustrate the links between the two nations.
Economic and military power
The U.S. economy continues to outstrip China’s by dollar value: In 2022, Chinese gross domestic product was $18 trillion, compared with $25.5 trillion for the United States.
But China’s population is more than four times America’s. And the economic picture looks different when adjusted for local prices: Based on purchasing power parity, China’s share of world G.D.P. is 18.9 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, surpassing the United States at 15.4 percent.
China has provided more than a trillion dollars for global infrastructure through its Belt and Road Initiative, which analysts see as an effort to project power around the world.
The rapid growth and modernization of China’s military have sparked concerns in the United States. China has more naval vessels than the United States and more military personnel, with 2.5 million in 2019.
But American armed forces are far better equipped, and the United States still spends more on defense than the next 10 countries combined — $877 billion in 2022, compared with $292 billion in reported spending by China.
Despite the rising tensions, trade between the countries remains extremely strong. China is America’s third-largest trading partner, after Canada and Mexico.
U.S. imports of goods and services from China hit a record $563.6 billion last year. But the share of U.S. imports that come from China has been falling, a sign of how some businesses are breaking off ties with China.
China is also a major export market, with half of all soybeans that the United States sends abroad going to China. The U.S.-China Business Council estimated that U.S. exports to China supported nearly 1.1 million jobs in the United States in 2021.
China dominates supply chains for both critical and everyday goods. It is the world’s largest producer of steel, solar panels, electronics, coal, plastics, buttons and car batteries, and it has quadrupled its car exports in just two years, becoming the world’s largest auto exporter through its growing clout in electric vehicles.
The United States has steadily expanded sanctions against Chinese companies and organizations because of national security and human rights concerns, placing 721 Chinese companies, organizations and people on an “entity list” that restricts their ability to buy products from the United States, according to the Commerce Department.
Financial and corporate ties
China is one of America’s largest lenders and holds nearly $1 trillion of U.S. debt.
Members of the S&P 500 index, which tracks the largest public companies in the United States, generate 7.6 percent of their revenue in mainland China, the biggest source of international sales by far, according to FactSet. The revenue that large U.S. firms derive from China is more than their revenue from the next three countries — Japan, Britain and Germany — combined.
But the outlook for American companies doing business in China has turned grimmer. In the American Chamber of Commerce in China’s most recent survey of U.S. companies in China, 56 percent described their business as unprofitable in 2022, with some blaming China’s strict Covid-19 lockdown measures.
Also in the survey, 46 percent of American companies thought that U.S.-China relations would deteriorate in 2023, while only 13 percent thought they would improve.
Personal and cultural connections
The United States is home to nearly 2.4 million Chinese immigrants, making it the top destination for Chinese immigrants worldwide. Chinese immigrants in the United States are more than twice as likely as U.S.-born adults to have a graduate or professional degree.
In the 2021-22 school year, 296,000 students from China attended U.S. institutions of higher learning, nearly a third of all international students in the United States.
Roughly three in four Chinese Americans experienced racial discrimination in the previous 12 months, and 9 percent were physically intimidated or assaulted, according to a survey by Columbia University and the Committee of 100, a Chinese American leadership organization.
Long considered a low-end manufacturer, China has become more of a source for innovation and cultural creation. TikTok, the popular social media app whose parent company is China’s ByteDance, says it has more than 150 million users in the United States.
Last year, 20 American movies opened in China, and their box office total was roughly $673 million, according to Comscore. China had more than 80,000 movie screens by late 2021, compared with roughly 39,000 in the United States.
Pandemic restrictions have made it much harder to travel between the countries. Air carriers are running only 24 flights a week between the United States and China, compared with about 350 before the pandemic.
Sapna Maheshwari and Nicole Sperling contributed reporting.
Ana Swanson is based in the Washington bureau and covers trade and international economics for The Times. She previously worked at The Washington Post, where she wrote about trade, the Federal Reserve and the economy. More about Ana Swanson
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