Whether China’s rise as a great power will be peaceful or violent is a question that animates scholars and policymakers alike. Power transition theory and offensive realism reach pessimistic conclusions about China’s potential for armed conﬂict because of the beneﬁts of aggression. Nevertheless, applications of these theories to China’s rise fail to examine the size and scope of these beneﬁts and to compare them systematically to the costs of conﬂict that other scholars have identiﬁed. To ﬁll this gap, this article applies different international relations theories to identify potential beneﬁts in one deﬁned issue area, territorial conﬂict, and then weighs these beneﬁts against the likely costs. The potential beneﬁts of territorial expansion are limited, a ﬁnding that weakens conﬁdence in the predictions of power transition theory and offensive realism but increases conﬁdence in more optimistic arguments about China’s rise based on economic interdependence.
I'm an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I am also a member of the Security Studies Program. I study international relations, with a focus on international security, China, and East Asia.
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