The evolving relationship between the US and China, charted

Image: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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This article has been corrected.

As Chinese president Xi Jinping embarks on his very first state visit to the US this week, the world’s top economies are now more interdependent than they have ever been before in history. Despite frictions over everything from cyber-security and censorship to trade agreements, their economic relationship is only deepening—as are cultural ties between the two countries.

Here’s a look at how things have changed over the years.

China’s gross domestic product bypassed the US’s in 2014, on a PPP basis.

But purchasing power parity equations aren’t a perfect way to measure the size of economies. In real terms, China’s economy still has a way to go before it reaches the size of the US’s.

And that means the US remains a larger export market for some consumer items, like French wine.

Bilateral trade between the world’s two largest economies has also made the countries more interdependent. China is the US’s largest trading partner, and vice versa:

China’s historically weak currency, which has controversially helped the country’s exports, has strengthened against the dollar in recent years:

Chinese companies’ presence in the US has increased considerably in recent years, and they have been responsible for more and more buyouts and mergers of US companies:

But overall American companies still invest far more in China than the other way around:

And while the growing economic relationship between the two gets the lions share of attention, cultural ties are strengthening too, often despite frosty government relations.

A growing number of Chinese tourists are landing on the shores of nearly every country in the world, but China ranked sixth on the list of international visitors to the US in 2014 (pdf), far behind the top foreign origin country, Canada. Still, Chinese visitors to the US are predicted to double to 5.8 million by 2020:

And, perhaps more important than absolute numbers, Chinese visitors are already the top-spending tourists in many major US cities, including New York and Los Angeles.

American tourists are the fourth-biggest group of foreign tourists in China, and numbered 3.1 million in 2014.

And a growing number of Chinese students helped the US welcome its highest number of international students in history in the 2013-2014 school year, nearly 900,000.

Chinese students now make up 31% of the US’s international student population, by far the leader. (India is number two with 12%). The number of US students studying in China has not grown as fast—there are 12 times as many Chinese students in the US as the other way around.

Another major milestone will be when China’s per-capita GDP matches that of the US’s. But there’s a long way to go before that happens; at $7,600, China’s GDP per capita is still a fraction of the US’s $55,000.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that China’s real GDP was almost equal to the US’s. Its real GDP is lower than the US’s.