The article examines manifestations of China’s rise and the attendant risks for the international security system.
The author draws on a set of key approaches to measuring state power in his analysis of China’s hard and soft power as well as its structural capabilities. It has been demonstrated that China is closing the gap on the USA on key power indicators – the economic capabilities and military resources. However, a number of factors are slowing down its progress. With regard to the structural power, soft power and potential to engage allies the USA continues to hold significant advantages.
China’s hegemonic aspirations bring about considerable structural transformations into international politics and impact international security. Redistribution of power and influence would reconfigure alliances, and impose new limitations on the actions and expectations of states. The rise of China and growing tensions between China and the USA would cause a complex and large-scale impact on the security of not only those two states, but the rest of the world as well. At both global and bilateral levels, security institutions and structures will undergo changes.
The rise of bipolarity will escalate the standoff. The USA and China may become hostages to Thucydides Trap, whereby steps to maximize one’s security will lead to a greater threat – and eventually to a devastating conflict – as the other party will also try to reciprocate. China's rise may also pose a security dilemma for potential allies of both countries, weaken international institutions of cooperation and security, and engender a deep crisis of confidence.
Scenarios of how the system of international security could respond are examined from the perspective of a security dilemma, power transition theory, and hegemonic stability theory. While both theories view the situation as challenging, they differ in their analysis of the sources and scale of risks.