There are indications that the trend toward deeper relationships has reversed in the fields of tourism, academics, and literature.
Amelia Hawkins and Michael Goodier
22 July 2023, at 8:00 BST
After several years of deterioration, cultural ties between the US and China have reached a low point, according to a Guardian study of government data.
The Covid-19 pandemic, travel restrictions, and ongoing trade conflict between the two countries are all thwarting cultural interactions, having an impact on everything from student enrollment to visitor numbers to the literary community.
There was a rise in cultural contact between the US and China in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Since then, those patterns have reversed due to hostilities between the two nations, which increased under Donald Trump and have persisted under Joe Biden.
The Guardian examines how the political and economic hostility between the superpowers has affected culture in this article.
Rich Chinese individuals have traditionally valued a western education. According to statistics, the number of Chinese students enrolled in US universities increased dramatically under the Obama administration,
from 98,235 in the academic year 2008–09 to 350,755 in the year 2016–17. However, the significant growth seen under Obama slowed down when Trump was in the White House. first decline was triggered by the Covid 19 epidemic.
In reversal, a similar pattern has been seen. In the early 2000s, there was a sharp increase in the number of US students choosing to study abroad in China, which peaked in 2012. Since then, there has been a
significant decline in student exchanges, with 11,639 US students studying in China in 2018–19 falling to just 382 in 2020–21 as a result of the epidemic.
The last several years have seen a new low in US-China journalistic relations, with visa reforms and tit-for-tat expulsions making life difficult for international correspondents from both countries.
According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, 56% of foreign embassies reported problems in 2022 getting J-1 visas for their correspondents, and Chinese officials frequently cited Covid-19 as an excuse to bar international media from the country. In comparison to 2021, 38% of the journalists questioned had Chinese sources who had experienced some form of harassment or being summoned in for interrogation.
In contrast, just two US visas for journalists, including those for family members, were granted to Chinese nationals in 2021 (non-essential visa services were interrupted by the epidemic). A record 1,041 were given in 2015, but since then, as ties between the two countries have deteriorated, the number has been slowly declining.
The US State Department said in 2020 that it will reduce from 160 to 100 the number of journalists permitted to operate in major Chinese media outlets’ US offices. The Chinese media were also required to register as foreign missions. Only 16 were issued in the fiscal year 2022, despite the fact that both governments had agreed to loosen restrictions on journalists in November 2021.
movie and literary
Even literature has been affected by the thawing of US-China relations. According to data from the University of Rochester’s translation database, since 2017, fewer works of Chinese poetry and fiction have been translated and published annually in the US.
A Guardian investigation of “US”-tagged books on the Chinese version of IMDb and Goodreads, Douban, reveals a similar pattern in reverse. In 2017, there were 267 US books published on the website; by 2022, that number had decreased to 146.
Hollywood’s impact has diminished in China as well. Although Chinese-made movies have never been all that well-liked in the US, Hollywood has always accounted for a sizable share of Chinese box office earnings
That estimate has changed in recent years; locally made films will account for 85% of the Chinese market in 2022, up from less than 50% a decade ago.
Tourism and travel
The Covid-19 outbreak brought to a decline in international travel, and China has had severe restrictions in place longer than any other nation. However, data from the I-94 Arrivals Programme shows a decline in Chinese visitors to the US even before the epidemic began.
Arrivals are gradually increasing, although they are still significantly below levels prior to the epidemic, according to data for the first five months of 2023, when China reopened its borders. May of this year saw only 87,600 Chinese nationals come, down from 255,000 in May of the previous year.
Separate statistics on US visitors to China are released by the UN World Tourism Organization and indicate increases up to 2018, when the numbers started to decline.