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Introduction: The United States, China, and Global Order

  • G. John Ikenberry
Part of the Asia Today book series (ASIAT)

Abstract

The United States and China are the two most powerful states in the world today. Each has massive economic, political, and military capacities that allow it to project power and influence around the world. For the United States, this is nothing new. For almost a century, the United States has been the leading world power, facing and overcoming rival great powers in two world wars and a Cold War. In the decades since the end of the Cold War, the United States has reigned in world politics as a “unipolar” state—unrivaled by other great powers or peer competitors. Indeed, as some observers see it, the world has been living through an “American century.” For China, the rise to global power has been more recent and sudden. Beginning with the post-Mao economic reforms of the 1980s, China embarked on three decades of unprecedented economic growth and modernization, recently overtaking Japan as the second largest economy on the world. Through trade, investment, and diplomacy, Chinese power increasingly has global reach. The distribution of global power is constantly shifting. Great powers are always rising and declining. The future is never certain. But amid these changes and for decades to come, the United States and China appear uniquely positioned to dominate world politics.

Keywords

United States Foreign Policy World Order International Order State Sovereignty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The “second image” is a reference to the three images or levels of inter national relations, with level one referring to the individual, level two to the domestic system, and level three to the structure of the international system. The classic discussion of these three images, in the context of the causes of war, is Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001, originally published in 1954).Google Scholar
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    This volume does not explore the ways in which international order—manifest in rules, institutions, norms, and ways of operating—shapes and constrains Chinese and American foreign policy. For important efforts to understand these “outside-in” dynamics, see Alastair Iain Johnston, Social States: China and International Institutions, 1980–2000 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008)Google Scholar
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    In thinking about how “ideas matter,” Max Weber famously argued that while “interests” tended to drive human action, ideas can act like a switch on a railroad track and alter the direction of human action. “Not ideas, but material and ideal interests directly govern men’s conduct. Yet very frequently the ‘world-images’ that have been created by ‘ideas’ have, like switchmen, determined the tracks along which action has been pushed by the dynamics of interest.” Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. and trans. Gerth and C. W. Mills, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1948), 280.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© G. John Ikenberry, Wang Jisi, and Zhu Feng 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. John Ikenberry

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