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"China's Century? Why America's Edge Will Endure"

A Chinese clerk counts U.S. dollar banknotes next to RMB (renminbi) yuan banknotes at a bank in Huaibei, east China's Anhui province.
Imaginechina via AP Images

"China's Century? Why America's Edge Will Endure"

Journal Article, International Security, volume 36, issue 3, pages 41-78

Winter 2011/12

Author: Michael Beckley, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2011–2012

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Quarterly Journal: International Security


Two assumptions dominate current foreign policy debates in the United States and China. First, the United States is in decline relative to China. Second, much of this decline is the result of globalization and the hegemonic burdens the United States bears to sustain globalization. Both of these assumptions are wrong. The United States is not in decline; in fact, it is now wealthier, more innovative, and more militarily powerful compared to China than it was in 1991. Moreover, globalization and hegemony do not erode U.S. power; they reinforce it. The United States derives competitive advantages from its hegemonic position, and globalization allows it to exploit these advantages, attracting economic activity and manipulating the international system to its benefit. The United States should therefore continue to prop up the global economy and maintain a robust diplomatic and military presence abroad.


"Michael Beckley's article demolishes the current China hype, which fills a small library by now. 'America's edge will endure' is the message of this piece, and it is argued with academic rigor, felicity of style, and compelling numbers. This piece will overturn many clichés about America's 'decline' while greatly improving the intelligence of the debate."

Josef Joffe, Senior Fellow, Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and Abramowitz Fellow, Hoover Institution, both at Stanford.

"Beckley, a research fellow at Harvard, brings empirical facts and cool analysis to an issue often dominated by overheated rhetoric...this is an important and notable piece that shows how rigorous academic research can inform our understanding of major policy debates."

-The National Interest (read full review)


Listen: Podcast of Michael Beckley and International Security editor Sean Lynn-Jones discussing this article and its implications.

Michael Beckley and Christopher Layne debate America's decline on WBUR's On Point. Listen to the show here.

The author has also written an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor based on this article as well as a policy brief and a blog post for the Harvard Business Review.


Click on the PDF below to access the entire article for free.


For more information about this publication please contact the IS Editorial Assistant at 617-495-1914.

For Academic Citation:

Michael Beckley. "China's Century? Why America's Edge Will Endure." International Security 36, no. 3 (Winter 2011/12): 41-78.

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