After breaking ranks with the Soviet Union, China became a de facto partner of the United States and remained so for several decades. The breach with Moscow widened in 1972, during the visit of U.S. President Richard Nixon. In the years to come, the geopolitical compulsion of driving a wedge within the communist camp became the touchstone of Washington’s approach towards Beijing.
The emergence of Deng Xiaoping following the death in 1976 of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), imparted a major, and increasingly prominent, geo economic dimension to Sino-U.S. ties.
In the decades that followed, China, spurred by Deng’s reform and opening up, became the workshop of the world, benefiting hugely from the migration of U.S. and Western capital to its coastal provinces. Guangdong province became exceptionally wealthy, riding on the neighbouring presence of Hong Kong as a world-class financial centre. Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, less than two hours by train from Hong Kong, became an international trade and manufacturing hub, benefiting from the wave of globalisation and, later, Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Shenzhen, close to Guangzhou, evolved into a major international hi-tech centre, spawning titans such as Huawei and DJI, the world leader in drones. Outside Guangdong, Shanghai’s rise was equally, and visibly, spectacular. But China’s emergence as the wo