The future of U.S.-China relations: Is conflict inevitable?

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What is likely to be the future character of the relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China? Will it be marked by convergence toward deepening cooperation, stability, and peace or by deterioration that leads to increasingly open competition and perhaps even war? The answers to these questions are of enormous importance. They are also, at this point, unknown. Most analysts who write on U.S.-China relations deploy arguments derived from the three main camps in contemporary international relations theorizing: realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Those whose basic analytical premises place them in one of these three schools, however, do not necessarily have similar views regarding the specific question of the future of U.S.-China relations. It is possible to identify realists who believe that the relationship will basically be stable and peaceful, liberals who expect confrontation and conflict, and constructivists who think that things could go either way. The six basic positions in this debate all rest on claims about the importance of particular causal mechanisms or sets of similarly aligned causal forces. In reality, one set of forces may turn out to be so powerful as to overwhelm the rest. But it is also conceivable that the future will be shaped by a confluence of different forces, some mutually reinforcing and others opposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-45
Number of pages39
JournalInternational Security
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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