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The China Challenge

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The China Challenge

Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power

W.W. Norton,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Former US diplomat offers a cogent assessment of China’s economic, political, and military power.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Overview
  • Concrete Examples


Princeton professor and former State Department official Thomas J. Christensen offers an insider’s analysis of what China’s rising power means for the United States, for the world at large and for China domestically. With the judgment of a diplomat and the rigor of an academic, Christensen provides a nuanced assessment of the challenges that China’s development and international ascent pose. He suggests strategies that the US can apply to influence China’s rise in the political, economic and national security arenas. getAbstract recommends this distinctive analysis to those in diplomacy, international development, investments, offshoring or any other endeavor in which China may be a factor.


Making Progress

Meetings in Beijing in December 2006 brought together representatives of then US president George W. Bush and then Chinese president Hu Jintao, and launched the first Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) between the two powers. These meetings clarified the vectors influencing US-China relations and set the context for the US to take a continuing pragmatic approach. America encouraged China’s continued economic growth and offered to be of assistance.

Today, international relations “realists” and so-called “neoconservatives” tend to see ongoing US-China relations as a zero-sum game, believing a major democracy like the US should never strengthen rival powers.

Some theorists within China caution that their nation should not adopt or join Western systems or entities. They fear subjugation, and they frame US policy toward China as a plan to prevent China’s development. They view US humanitarian efforts elsewhere in the world as indirect power grabs. The Chinese media tend to portray US policy toward China as a scheme to surround, “split” or “westernize” China. The term “westernize” harkens back to the 19th century, when Great Britain won the Opium War...

About the Author

Thomas J. Christensen was deputy assistant US secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific from 2006 through 2008. He is William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics and directs the China and the World Program at Princeton University. 

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