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Transition ScenariosChina and the United States in the Twenty-First Century$
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David P. Rapkin and William R. Thompson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226040332

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226040509.001.0001

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Twenty-First-Century Transition Struggles

Twenty-First-Century Transition Struggles

(p.1) Chapter One Twenty-First-Century Transition Struggles
Transition Scenarios

David P. Rapkin

William R. Thompson

University of Chicago Press

As the United States’ preoccupation with the Middle East winds down, attention has turned to the likelihood of a future United States-China systemic leadership transition, whether it might be war-prone, how dissatisfied with the status quo the Chinese are and might become, and how best, or whether, to accommodate Chinese grievances to reduce the risk of a major power clash. These questions have many possible answers and hinge not only on Chinese developments but also developments in the United States. Even so, the history of past transitions suggests a high probability for ascending states to have to fight in order to rise in the pecking order. That may not hold in the future but we need to consider it as one possibility. Otherwise, in the absence of a crystal ball, we can only fall back on history, international relations theory, and our understanding of what transition struggles are all about if we wish to engage in serious contemplation about likely futures. Accordingly, this study has three objectives: 1) to think analytically about a renewed United States-Chinese rivalry – this time over systemic leadership, 2) to explore international relations theory to see whether it can explain this type of structural change, and 3) to apply forward reasoning to the development of five scenarios that are both theoretically driven and encompass the range of possible transition futures.

Keywords:   systemic transition, ascending states, United States-Chinese rivalry, systemic leadership, forward reasoning, scenarios

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