Three decades ago the People' Republic of China was an economic backwater. Today the PRC sports the world' second-largest economy. Shanghai most dramatically illustrates the country' transformation. The city is filled with stylish office buildings, five-star hotels, luxury stores and foreign visitors.
Reflecting their success, the Chinese are increasingly confident as well. If not yet a great power, the PRC seems destined to eventually share global leadership with the United States. And its people know that.
Which means future U.S.-China relations could be rocky.
Ties turned confrontational under the Obama administration, which announced a "pivot" or "rebalance" to Asia. Washington officials unconvincingly claimed that the policy was not directed against Beijing. The Chinese may be many things, but they are not stupid.
Candidate Donald Trump sounded like he intended to pursue an even more truculent course, upgrading relations with Taiwan, launching a trade war, blockading Chinese possessions in the South China Sea and pressuring the PRC to "solve" the North Korea problem. But then came the bilateral summit and the president' one-way love-fest with Chinese president Xi Jinping. All suddenly became sweet and light in Trumpland.
However, in the long-term the president' pleasant words backed by an offer of unspecified trade concessions won't go far in buffering relations between a unipower determined to preserve its dominance and a rising power equally determined to assert itself. First, the Trump administration yielded Pacific economic leadership to the PRC. Beijing is likely to find new commercial opportunities, limiting Washington' ability to do trade harm.