Fateful Transitions: How Democracies Manage Rising Powers, from the Eve of World War I to China's Ascendance

Fateful Transitions: How Democracies Manage Rising Powers, from the Eve of World War I to China's Ascendance

Fateful Transitions: How Democracies Manage Rising Powers, from the Eve of World War I to China's Ascendance

Fateful Transitions: How Democracies Manage Rising Powers, from the Eve of World War I to China's Ascendance

Synopsis

As China emerges as a global force in the twenty-first century, questions of how existing great powers will navigate the geopolitical transition loom large. In Fateful Transitions, Daniel M. Kliman revisits historic power shifts to shed light on enduring patterns in international relations, demonstrating that the regime type of ascendant powers greatly influences global interactions.

Since the late nineteenth century, the world's major democracies have tended to accommodate or conciliate ascendant democratic states. Certain attributes of democracy, such as a free press and domestic checks and balances, encourage trust during power shifts, whereas closed and autocratic regimes on the ascent tend to produce a cycle of suspicion, competition, and confrontation. Drawing on democratic peace theory and power transition theory, Kliman compares Great Britain's embrace of U.S. ascendancy in the early twentieth century to its confrontational stance toward autocratic Germany and later U.S. mistrust of the Soviet Union. Within this geopolitical context, he evaluates the interactions between China and current great powers, the United States and Japan. Building on this analysis, Kliman offers new insights into the dynamics of power shifts and explores their implications for how today's established and emerging powers can successfully navigate fateful transitions.

Excerpt

An age-old question—how to manage the rise of new powers—looms large for the United States, Europe, and much of Asia. Although the nature of the emerging international order remains unclear, the geopolitics of the twentyfirst century has earlier parallels. Since the late 1800s, the world’s major democracies have repeatedly navigated the ascendance of other nations. The choices made by democratic leaders during these fateful transitions have profoundly shaped the course of history. On the positive side, these decisions paved the way for the Anglo-American rapprochement; on the negative side, the path taken culminated in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. This track record of limited success should give today’s leaders pause as they confront a world increasingly defined by fateful transitions.

As other powers rise, democratic nations have pursued a range of strategies. Sometimes they have appeased, sometimes they have integrated the rising state into international institutions, sometimes they have built up military capabilities and alliances, and sometimes they have contained the ascendant state. On occasion, they have even switched approaches midway through a new power’s emergence. This book explains the strategic choices that democratic leaders make as they navigate power shifts. It argues that an ascendant state’s form of government decisively frames transitions of power: democracies can rise and reassure while autocracies cannot. As a result, the strategies adopted by democratic leaders differ depending on the regime type of the rising power.

Domestic institutions shape external perceptions of a nation’s rise. On multiple levels, democratic government functions as a source of reassurance. Democracy clarifies intentions: decentralized decision-making and a free press guarantee that information about a state’s ambitions cannot remain . . .

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