The Conflicted Rising Power
DAVID SHAMBAUGH AND REN XIAO
China is the world’s most important rising power. Every day and everywhere, China figures prominently in global attention. Wherever one turns, China is in the news—gobbling up resources, soaking up investment, expanding its overseas profile, throwing its weight around its Asian neighborhood, being the sought-after suitor in global governance diplomacy, sailing its navy into new waters, broadening its global cultural presence, and managing a mega-economy that is the engine of global growth.
But how will China behave on the global stage in the future, as it continues to accrue wealth and power? This is the grand strategic question of our era. One recent book was confidently tided When China Rules the World} Another one was titled Eclipse:Living in the Shadow of ‘China’s EconomicDominance.2 Yet another is apocalyptically titled Death by China.3 All of these perspectives are overstated, as China remains far from being the world’s dominant power.4 Nonetheless, in two decades China has moved from the periphery to the center of international politics.
While the future of China and its impact on the world will depend on a wide variety of domestic and international determinants,5 one key variable of importance is how the Chinese perceive their nation’s international position and roles. This is the subject of this chapter.
While Chinese have, over time, possessed an extraordinarily singular sense of purpose and will to acquire wealth and power (fu-qiang), we argue that as China regains its former global status it is increasingly a conflicted rising power