Primacy or World Order?: The United States and China’s Rise—A Review Essay
Abstract

How should the United States respond to China’s rise? What are China’s longterm strategic goals? What are the implications of U.S.-China strategic interactions for world order? Three recent works—Aaron Friedberg’s A Contest for Supremacy, Hugh White’s The China Choice, and Yan Xuetong’s Ancient Chinese Political Thought, Modern Chinese Power—grapple with these questions in authoritative and revealing ways. This review essay examines the answers provided by these authors, with the aim of clarifying the different underlying assumptions that led them to their conclusions. Four themes are found to be especially pertinent. These are the assumptions the authors hold about the existing distribution of power, China’s strategic objectives, the role of economic interdependence in Asia, and the relationship between democracy and political legitimacy. The way the authors parse these themes—which ones they bracket or admit into their analysis, and how they weigh and combine them—helps to reveal the underlying bases of their and, by implication, our policy preferences. The essay concludes by suggesting that contrary to the view of some, time has something to offer both sides. And if those opportunities are properly understood by the United States and China, the prospects for peaceful competition and coevolution improve.


pdf