ABSTRACT

Introduction China now boasts the world’s second-largest economy, delivering double-digit economic growth on a seemingly permanent basis. It continues to pursue an ambitious programme of military modernisation. It is the world’s top steel producer, the world’s biggest car market, the world’s largest commodity consumer, and the world’s manufacturing superpower. Is China’s rise sustainable? The question continues to baffle commentators for two main reasons. First, international relations tend to betray those who try to predict the future on shortterm trends. Consider the number of times the United States has been dismissed as a declining hegemon in the face of an allegedly rising power, such as the Soviet Union in the 1970s or Japan in the 1980s (Beckley 2011: 41-78). Second, it is extremely difficult to look inside the black box of China to determine how China’s leaders see the world and China’s policy toward it (Lampton, 2007: 115). In the absence of our ability to predict the future or to reliably open the black box of the Chinese state, scholars have fallen back on the use of theoretical templates to anticipate the future (Acharya 2003/4: 150; Ikenberry and Mastanduno 2003; Kang 2003).