China and the Future of World Politics
by Jessica Chen Weiss, Cornell University
In less than seven decades since its founding in 1949, China has transformed itself from an isolated and impoverished country to one that sits permanently on the United Nations Security Council, wields nuclear weapons, and possesses the world’s second-largest economy. If China’s economy and military capabilities continue to grow—perhaps eventually matching or overtaking those of the United States—what will follow? Will China’s return to great power status lead to international conflict and disrupt the U.S.-led order? Structural trends and historical patterns give us some purchase on the forces at work but have difficulty illuminating the proximate factors and decisions that could escalate to crisis and even war. The details matter. Focusing on what lies over the horizon—when China grows even stronger or sees its trajectory dimmed by economic stagnation or political instability—risks neglecting the current opportunities and challenges that could shape the future context. Yet these broad questions and trends remain irresistible.