Beginning with Richard Nixon's history-making visit to Beijing in 1972, subsequent administrations – both Democrat and Republican – worked to improve relations with Beijing.
Democrat Jimmy Carter formally recognized the People's Republic of China over Taiwan, Republican George H.W. Tiananmen Massacre and Democrat Bill Clinton support China's membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Trump is an iconoclast, out of step with some of his Republican colleagues, let alone the Democrats, this is not it. Bipartisan consensus has swung hard against Beijing in recent years, with some opposition lawmakers in Washington even calling on Trump to take a harder approach.
"There is a broad hawkishness on China that straddles left, right, and center," said Patrick Lozada, China director at Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG), Washington-based strategic advisory firm.
When Trump. "
When Trump Democrats – that he did not go far enough.
"The United States must take strong, smart and strategic action against China's brazenly unfair trade policies," Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said at the time. "Yet, today's announcement is just a start, and the Trump Administration must do much more to fight for American workers and products."
Even today, as the expansion of those tariffs have started to become consumers and manufacturers at home, offering a tantalizing attack line for Democrats in 2020, criticisms from those in the party's leadership are Trump's execution, not his target.
"We should not have had a multifront on tariffs," Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer said this week. "I would focus everything on China."
On Trump's side of the aisle, voices critical of his deal have been outweighed by Republicans wanting to take an even harder line on China – even as many sought to be in it on expanding tariffs against European allies.
"The President is right to hold China's feet on the fire," Senator John Barrasso told CNN on Wednesday. The president has his own timeline. "
"I'm hard-pressed to think of another consensus on American foreign policy that's as fast as the US Consensus on China, "Richard Hass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank, said in February.
"People have grown weary of Chinese trade practices, of technology theft." And it's also a reflection on what's going on in China … with the treatment of the Uyghurs, the abolition of (term) limits by the president therefore because of strategic concerns such as the South China Sea and what China has done there. "
Lozada, the ASG analyst, said that "Beijing has failed to grasp the changing nature of US politics and the growing concern about the slow pace of reform in China." When President Trump took office, they regarded him as a transactional businessman without
Bipartisan China hawkishness is not only hurting Beijing on trade either.
Human rights, often on overlooked topic in relations with Beijing, have come back to the fore, along with calls for punitive sanctions that would further weaken China's economy in the middle of a trade.
This week, leading Hong Kong Democrats were on Capitol Hill to testify before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a bipartisan panel which issues an annual report on the state of human rights in China and has grown in influence under the trump administration.
In his opening remarks, CECC chair James McGovern, a Democratic congressman, said he believed "it is time for the new and innovative policies to support the people of Hong Kong."
McGovern and others have reported Washington's review of the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, under which it remains as a separate territory to the rest of China, as long as Hong Kong remains "sufficiently autonomous." Suspending Hong Kong's special status could devastate the city's economy and hit Beijing hard, given its reliance on Hong Kong's financial sector.
CECC members, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, have been detained in China for the Great Britain's Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of people have been detained in "re education camps. "
The Magnitsky Acts, which impose visa sanctions and asset freezes on alleged human rights violators, have recently been introduced to Russia and have since been expanded to become officials of Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Rubio, have called for China to be added to the list. Doing so would be a great blow against the finances and freedom to travel to top Chinese officials, but would also like to have any hopes of improving relations with Beijing.
Dangers of further split
Despite widespread skepticism and hostility toward China in Washington today, better bilateral relations in the past paid off for both countries. China's economy exploded after it entered the WTO in 2000, and the US has long enjoyed the benefits of cheap Chinese manufacturing.
The chances of reaching a breaking point are slight, but very real. US military leaders have expressed alarm over China's moves in the South China Sea and towards Taiwan, as Washington has ramped up its own military engagement in the region, something Beijing regards as a provocation.
Taiwan has bought weapons from the US and lobbied for even greater support from Washington. The island's de facto independence from China has always come to an end in a military conflict with Beijing.
While we are in the midst of the conflict, we are talking about a new Cold War, with other nations being forced to choose sides.
That could create a bloody allied against Washington, something that has not faced the height of the original Cold War. As commentator Henry Luce wrote in December, better relations between Washington and Beijing under Nixon helped exacerbate the Sino-Soviet split, one factor which resulted in the USSR's eventual collapse.
"Mr Trump is triggering a 'reverse Nixon'," Luce wrote. It is happening at a speed that is even taking Americans by surprise. "
That was five months ago, and things have only sped up since then.