Will China replace the U.S as the world’s predominant power?

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In 2012, I wrote an article in Atlantisch Perspectief on U.S. President Barack Obama’s second-term foreign policy. How Obama dealt with challenges emerging from China was an important question, in part, because Chinese officials so clearly projected an air of ascendancy in their meetings with their American counterparts while intellectuals in China contemplated the finer points of U.S. declinism theory.
I was reminded of this 2012 article because in the wake of the covid-19 global crisis, Chinese spokespersons are again speaking more confidently, with an assertive swagger that broadcasts that China is ready to grasp hold of an enhanced global position. In 2011, Obama’s attempts to manage a more forceful China, by toning down U.S. confrontational language, yielded limited benefits.
The Trump administration’s response to China’s recent uptick in assertiveness has been to engage in a war of words. Additionally, Trump’s combative stance with China appears central to his re-election strategy. Thus, from now until November third, we can expect to endure a heated rivalry, with accusations flying between China and the U.S. How should the global system respond? Will states take sides?
Undoubtedly, China wants to take on a great-power mantle, which includes leading a response to a global health crisis, but no matter how ignoble U.S. foreign policy might be over the course of the next few months, is the West really ready for China’s guidance and what would we be giving up if the U.S. shed its role as the global system’s leader in times of crisis?
Original languageEnglish
JournalAtlantisch Perspectief
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2020


  • China
  • U.S. Foreign Policy
  • Trump

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