Timeline: straining of US-China relations in 2010

Updated On: Feb 11, 2010

In the initial months of 2010, there was a shift in U.S. strategy, with the U.S. seeming reluctant to cede to China any diplomatic ground at all. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized China for censoring the Internet, in the wake of Google’s allegations about Chinese hackers. The Obama administration went ahead with weapons sales to Taiwan and a meeting with the Dalai Lama, despite threats of sanctions. In February, the Obama administration revived pressure on China to stop artificially depressing its currency. So far, the rows have not gone beyond rhetoric, but they signal that ties are fraying between the two giants.


Date Summary
 Jan-6-2010 US President Barack Obama who was bound by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (an act binding the US to ensure Taiwan can respond to Chinese threats) approved the sale of weapons including missiles, ships, helicopters, of worth US$6.4 billion to Taiwan.
 Jan-11-2010 China deliberately releases details of a ballistic missile defense capabilities test, in a move, some experts say is supposed to be a reaction to the weapons sale.
 Jan-15-2010 Google threatens to withdraw from China over email hacking and censorship. The US government reacts by criticizing China and expressing its intention to lodge a formal complaint to Beijing. The event reignites debate regarding human rights issues in China.
 Jan-29-2010 The US warns China with threats of diplomatic and economic isolation if it did not agree to tougher new sanctions against Iran (China’s third largest source of crude oil) to halt its nuclear program.
 Jan-30-2010 In retaliation to the US arms package for Taiwan, China suspends military contact with the US and imposes sanctions on companies selling weapons to Taiwan. Chinese officials maintain that Taiwan is a part of its territory and thus must be reunited with the mainland. 
Feb-3-2010 Obama stated last week that countries that undervalue their currency, in an indirect jab at China, put the US at a “huge competitive disadvantage”. He also hinted at tougher action against such countries.  
Feb-6-2010  The White House confirms that US President Barack Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama (the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader), when he arrives in Washingtonon February 17, for a 10-day US visit. The move sparks China to reaffirm that it “resolutely opposes” such meetings with the alleged separationist.
Feb -10- 2010 Continued US surveillance in the South China Sea has also raised tensions. The surveillance ships operate within China’s disputed economic zone (off-limits to foreign patrols), approximately 370 km off the Chinese coast. In March 2009, Chinese ships challenged a US spy ship.
Feb-18- 2010 Google China’s systems are hacked into and are believed to be the work of 2 Chinese universities. The said attacks were aimed at stealing trade secrets, computer codes and capturing e-mail of Chinese human rights activists, may have begun as early as April, months earlier than previously believed. Google’s decision to step forward and challenge China over the intrusions has created a highly sensitive issue for the United States government.
Feb -25-2010 China warns the US against selling F-16s to Taiwan, reaffirming the possibility of greater consequences. Military experts say the F-16s will greatly enhance Taiwan’s combat ability, and China has objected strongly to past sales of the jet to Taiwan. With the preexisting rivalries between China and Taiwan it is likely this will bring about another wave of difficulties between US-China relations.
Mar-3- 2010 Two senior US diplomats have begun meetings with Chinese officials over a wide range of issues, amid a series of high-profile disagreements. These include receiving the Dalai Lama, the proliferation of weapons to Taiwan as well as the Google issue. Chinese officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the blame for bilateral friction rests with Washington and it is hoped that the meetings will help relieve the differences.
Mar-23-2010 Google attempted to circumvent censorship by rerouting mainland servers through Hong Kong. This aggravates relations between US and China, with White House expressing disappointment with China, at the lack of resolution. 
Apr-6-2010 The US delayed a currency report on China that was to label them as a “currency manipulator”- signalling that the Obama administration prefers to resolve matters diplomatically.
Apr-8-2010 The United States Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is to visit China, to discuss China’s policy on keeping its currency at a fixed exchange rate.
Apr-19-2010 In the midst of the BRIC summit, President Hu Jintao claimed that China was maintaining a managed floating exchange rate
May-14-2010 For the first time China and USA had closed door dialogues on human rights, signalling an improvement in relations between the two countries.
May-24-2010 The United States and China begin high-level talks in Beijing, today. US Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner begin their Strategic Economic dialogue with their counterparts in China. Topping the agenda of the talks will be Korean tensions after a multinational panel on Thursday blamed a North Korean submarine for torpedoing the South Korean navy corvette Cheonan in March, killing 46 sailors
June-19-2010 China's central bank pledges to gradually make its yuan exchange rate more flexible, softening a 23-month-old dollar peg under intense fire from Washington.
June-28-2010 Obama administration declines to label China a currency manipulator in a report delayed from April.
July-23-2010 China angered after the United States takes up the issue of disputes in the South China Sea at a regional forum, causing a new source of friction.

A new Pentagon report indicates that China was ramping up investment in a range of areas including, long-range missiles, submarines, aircraft carriers and cyber warfare. Current trends in China's military capabilities are likely to alter East Asian military balances and could provide China with a force capable of conducting a range of military operations in Asia well beyond Taiwan.

In response, China's state media on Wednesday criticised the report as unprofessional and aggressive, saying US demands for transparency were unrealistic.

Sep-7-2010 President Obama sent his top economic adviser, Larry Summers, on a 3 day trip to China. The trip has two stated goals: address contentious issues, such as currency revaluation and trade issues, Internet policies, US arms sales to Taiwan, Tibet, and Chinese territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and lay the groundwork for an official state visit by President Hu Jintao next year.
Sep-9-2010 Top Chinese officials are calling for quiet discussions instead of open friction with the United States after a summer marked by bilateral disagreements over heated issues, emphasising the need for good relations with the United States.
Sep-17-2010 US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner told the Senate Banking Committee that he encouraged the US Congress to pile pressure on China in order to force it to allow the yuan to rise and said the US administration was examining a range of tools to urge Beijing to act.


He also said the United States would use a Group of 20 summit in Seoul in November to try to mobilize trading partners to get Beijing to let the yuan strengthen faster.

Sep-24-2010 President Obama and Premier Wen met at a 2 hour meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, with Obama urging Wen to speed up the revaluation of his nation's currency, and that the slow pace of reforms was affecting both the global and U.S. economies. They also discussed security issues including Iran, Sudan and the dispute between China and Japan.

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