Image Credit: State Department (Flickr)

"Established Power" vs. "Rising Power"


With U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making another trip to the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. State Department posted her comments from a joint press conference today with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi online.

There was one line that really caught my eye:

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

“As I have said before, our two nations are trying to do something that has never been done in history, which is to write a new answer to the question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet.”

Note the term “established power.” Very interesting choice of words.

In my own very humble opinion, this is the major question of the 21st century and for American foreign policy going forward. I thought the comment shows a very clear understanding of the stakes involved on a historical level.

The U.S.-China relationship is clearly the world’s most important. Nothing will drive the globe’s dynamics more than this. And with both nations armed with nuclear weapons, there is an added reason to make sure tensions are kept to a minimum. With flashpoints in the South China Sea, Iran, the ongoing chaos in Syria just for starters, the importance of the bilateral relationship will only grow as the years pass.

Will China’s rise be accompanied by peaceful competition and avoid any of the armed conflict that past great geostrategic changes in world politics usually bring? In my opinion, there is no bigger question for the world to ponder.

We certainly know at least from America’s perspective competition is already here. As Secretary Clinton has already stated in a well warn quote: “We are in a competition for influence with China. Let’s put aside the humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in. Let’s just talk straight realpolitik. We are in competition with China.”

History shows clearly the rise of one power many times does not bode so well for the “established power.”

What do you think? Your comments below are welcomed…

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief