Features | Diplomacy

Mearsheimer vs. Nye on the Rise of China

John Mearsheimer and Joseph S. Nye Jr. on the rise of China and America’s engagement policy.

By Bill Callahan for
Mearsheimer vs. Nye on the Rise of China
Credit: REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

The rise of China is the key issue of the 21st century. Can China rise peacefully? Has America’s engagement policy created a peer competitor? How should the U.S. respond to Beijing’s island-building in the South China Sea, and its institution-building in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)?

This short documentary film (19 minutes) by Bill Callahan examines how the personal experiences of iconic IR theorists John Mearsheimer (Chicago) and Joseph S. Nye, Jr. (Harvard) on their first trips to China have framed their strategic understandings of U.S.-China relations. Are Offensive Realists like Mearsheimer correct that a rising China is structurally determined to challenge the hegemonic U.S.? Can U.S.-China relations be managed through diplomacy and international organisations, as the Liberal Institutionalists argue? Or does America’s China policy need a combination of Realism and Liberalism, as Nye suggests?

Bill Callahan is professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His films can be viewed at www.vimeo.com/billcallahan.