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For all the ‘decoupling’ rhetoric, U.S.-China trade is booming

For all the talk of deepening tensions between the United States and China, there is one area where relations appear to be 'business-as-usual': trade. Official Chinese data show that bilateral trade between the two countries surged in 2021, with China's exports to and imports from the United States reaching $46.9 billion and $14.3 billion in June respectively.

“Trade wars between the U.S. and China have not really diverted trade towards other countries,” Keyu Jin, professor of economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said at a Fortune virtual conversation titled “Is Globalization Worth Saving?” on Wednesday. “The fact is, [foreign direct investment] flowed to China—even from the U.S. to China—at record levels last year.”

It's not just the United States. Other countries that have butted heads with Beijing have continued to trade with China with few disruptions. Professor Kishore Mahbubani, distinguished fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, said that "in the year 2000, Brazil took one year to export $1 billion to China. Today, it takes 72 hours." Mahbubani argued that countries would likely ignore appeals to change trading relationships with the lucrative mainland market. “You cannot ask countries to commit suicide by cutting off their trade with China," he said.

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