Throughout history Chinese-American relations have generally been volatile, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union, which removed a common enemy and ushered in a world characterized by American dominance. Many in the United States remain suspicious of Communist China and believe that its goal is to establish hegemony in East Asia and threaten U.S. interests. While there are many irritants in Chinese-American relations, there are also many stabilizing factors. The People's Republic of China and the United States are major trade partners and have common interests in the prevention and suppression of terrorism and in preventing nuclear proliferation. While the end of the Cold War removed a common enemy, the War on Terror has produced a new common enemy, which has greatly stabilized relations.
In addition, while there is still a great deal of Chinese mistrust at American intentions, there is also the grudging realization that the United States will likely remain a unipolar global power for much of the early 21st century.
A direct challenge to the United States is likely beyond China's capability for several decades. There is also a realization that most of China's challenges and difficulties are internal, and therefore there is a desire on the part of China to maintain stable relations with the United States.
First contact between the post-revolutionary Americans and the Chinese occurred during the voyage of the trader ship Empress of China, which arrived at Canton in 1784 (US-China Relations). Given the Chinese demand for raw goods as well as the American demand for anything remotely exotic, the voyage of the Empress was a financial windfall for its owners and thus began the lucrative Sino-American relationship known as the Old China Trade (US-China Relations). The result was the considerable exportation of specie, ginseng, and furs to China, not to mention...