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China-US Cultural Exchange Hits Record Low Amidst Tensions and Covid-19, Data Reveals

The once flourishing cultural exchange between China and the US has reached an unprecedented low, as recent data analyzed by The Guardian highlights the impact of political tensions and the Covid-19 pandemic on bilateral ties.

Education and Student Exchanges: During the early 2010s, cultural exchange between China and the US witnessed a remarkable surge, with an increasing number of Chinese students seeking education in the US. However, this trend experienced a sharp decline during the Trump administration and was further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in the first drop in student numbers since 2003-04.

Conversely, the number of US students opting to study in China peaked in 2012 but has since witnessed a significant decline. The pandemic led to a drastic drop in US students studying in China, with numbers falling from 11,639 in 2018-19 to a mere 382 in 2020-21.

Journalistic Relations:
Journalistic relations between China and the US have also been severely affected by the escalating tensions. Foreign correspondents from both nations have faced challenges, with expulsions and visa changes creating obstacles to their work.

In 2022, 56% of foreign bureaux reported delays in obtaining J-1 visas for their correspondents, with Chinese authorities frequently using Covid-19 as a pretext to deny access. Moreover, 38% of the surveyed journalists had experienced harassment or questioning of their Chinese sources, representing a significant increase from the previous year. The figure plummeted from a record 1,041 in 2015 to just two in 2021, due to the deteriorating relations between the two countries.

Impact on Film and Literature:
The cooling of US-China relations has also extended its influence to the world of literature. Publications of Chinese fiction and poetry translated and published in the US have been on a steady decline since 2017.

In China, the interest in American literature has also waned, with the number of US books published on the Chinese website Douban dropping from 267 in 2017 to 146 in 2022.

The film industry is not exempt from this trend either. Historically, Hollywood films held a significant share of the Chinese box office, but the balance shifted in recent years. In 2022, domestically produced films accounted for a staggering 85% of the Chinese market, compared to less than 50% a decade earlier.

Travel and Tourism:
The Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted global travel, with China implementing strict travel restrictions for a more extended period than most countries. The number of Chinese tourists visiting the US had already been dwindling before the pandemic hit.

Although Chinese arrivals have slowly increased since China reopened its borders in 2023, they remain significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels. In May 2023, only 87,600 Chinese nationals arrived in the US, in contrast to 255,000 in May 2019.

Similarly, US tourists’ numbers to China displayed an upward trend until 2018, when they began to decline.

As political tensions and the pandemic continue to shape the landscape of China-US relations, efforts to rekindle and restore cultural exchanges between the two nations face significant challenges.

In conclusion, the once vibrant tapestry of cultural exchange between China and the US now stands tattered and strained. The echoes of political antagonism and the profound reverberations of the Covid-19 pandemic have left deep imprints on the ties that once bound these two global powers. From declining student exchanges and journalistic frictions to fading literary and cinematic influences, the consequences are evident across various spheres. As we navigate these challenging times, it is crucial to acknowledge the importance of fostering understanding, empathy, and cooperation. Only through such efforts can we hope to mend the fabric of cultural interconnection and build a bridge towards a brighter, more harmonious future.

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