America's Challenge: The Rise of China and the Future of Liberal International Order

July 2011
Published by the New America Foundation

In this paper I offer a way of thinking about the rise of China and the policy challenges facing the United States. I make four arguments. First, the rise of China does create dangers for international conflict but these dangers are not inevitable and predetermined. Scholars have described these dynamics of conflict generated by shifts in the global balance of power as “power transitions” and the “problem of peaceful change.” The rise of Germany in the late nineteenth century, challenging British hegemony, is the classic case of how power transitions can lead to war. In seeking a strategic response to the rise of China, the Obama administration needs to place the current moment in the context of these grand problems of power shifts and global change, understanding the dynamics, dangers, and opportunities.