“Is China Rising”?  When Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Iain Johnston posed this question in 2009, it seemed beside the point.[1] Everyone knew China was rising. But when Chestnut Greitens and Johnston parsed the discourse to see what analysts meant by “rising,” they discovered a baffling array of meanings. Translating these different definitions into indicators, they found 14 in total, of which only six actually indicated that China was rising. To take but one example, even if we translate “rising” into “catching up to the dominant state in material capability,” the answer is not always clear. Does rising mean that the capabilities of one state are increasing as a percentage of those of the dominant state? Or does it mean that absolute difference between the leading state and the rising state is shrinking? The former definition seems to capture the idea of “rising,” for it shows that the weaker state growing faster than the dominant one. But the latter measure captures the size of the pool of material resources each government can draw upon to compete in international politics. Back in 2009, by most measures of material capability including GDP, science and technology, and military spending, China was rising according to the former measure, but the United States was rising according to the latter measure. That is, as the world was incessantly talking about China’s rise in the early 2000s, with each passing year the pool of material resources the United States government could draw on was getting larger than what China could bring to bear.

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