INTRODUCTION I would like fIrst to address this question from an historical perspective, offering an American view of how China reached its present position and what that has meant for the thinking of its leaders and its people and for the relative influence of the People's Republic on the world stage. This will be a reminder of China's past as a power of some real significance in modern history. Then I will sketch some thoughts on China's present-day impact as an economic, political and military actor. Then I will conclude with a look to the future and how China's influence in a globalising and interdependent economic system will be enhanced by greater integration and openness - an interesting reinforcing mechanism for further reform of China's political system.