It has been an off-on relationship between China and the US.
And the relationship could be hitting a rough patch as Washington seals an arms deal with Taiwan - a deal China disapproves of.
Beijing has warned of "serious harm" to relations between the two powers, accusing Washington of "arrogance" over plans to sell arms to Taiwan.
The Obama administration has defended the package worth about $6.4bn as necessary to boost regional security while China says the US arms sales to Taiwan hurt its national security.
Beijing is seeking to pressure the US by punishing those private companies whose arms are involved in the Taiwan sales.
Does escalating the rhetoric in this dispute threaten to deepen rifts between the world's largest and third-largest economies? Are bilateral relations on the brink and the fates of other countries being held hostage?
Inside Story presenter Imran Garda is joined by Banning Garrett, the director of the Asia Programme of the Atlantic Council, Martin Jacques, a columnist and the author of When China Ruled the World, and Erich Shih, a correspondent for CTi Television.
This episode of Inside Story aired on Monday, February 1, 2010.