Preprint / Version 1

From Mao to Modernity: China's Rise in the 21st Century




International Relations, US-China Relations, Hegemony, Belt and Road Initiative, Digital Authoritarianism, Thucydides Trap, Authoritarianism, Taiwan, Global Governence, Liberal International Order, Xinjiang, Uyghur Muslims, Surveillance, AI


In the twenty-first century, the central question framing US foreign policy has shifted from McCarthy’s infamous “Who lost China?” to “What is China?” This question encompasses crucial facets of the shifting global order: What are China’s motives? What will the consequences be? How should the West respond? Should the West respond? Addressing these questions is a prerequisite to resolving the multitude of global challenges today, from climate change and food insecurity to terrorism and nuclear proliferation. This essay first examines China's methods to become the leading superpower. Next, it analyzes the economic, social, and geopolitical implications of Chinese hegemony. Finally, it concludes that a globally dominant China, despite presenting the threat of digital authoritarianism, could foster both economic growth and geopolitical stability.


Abrar, M. A. (2023, March 8). BRI created 420,000 jobs, lifted 40 million people out of poverty: Chinese FM. Pakistan Today.

Albert, E. (2018, February 9). China’s Big Bet on Soft Power. Council on Foreign Relations.

Allison, G. (2023, April 28). China Is Growing Much Faster Than the U.S. Why It Matters for Global Power. Barron's.

Allison, G. T. (2017). Destined for War? The National Interest no. 149. 9–21. JSTOR.

Amiti M. & Konings J. (2007). Trade liberalization, intermediate inputs, and productivity: evidence from Indonesia. Am Econ Rev. 97(5):1611–1638

Ashford, E., Brands, H., Castillo, J. J., Kizer, K., Friedman, L., Rebecca F. Shapiro, J., & Shifrinson, J. R. I. (2019). New Voices in Grand Strategy. Center for a New American Security.

Bremmer, I. (2015, May 25). 5 Reasons Why the US Remains the World's Only Superpower. Time.

Buckley, C., & Mozur, P. (2019, May 22). How China Uses High-Tech Surveillance to Subdue Minorities. New York Times.

Chang, F. K. (2022, March 29). China’s Belt and Road Initiative Meets Slowing Global Trade. Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Cheung, A. S. Y., & Chen, Y. (2021, December 9). From Datafication to Data State: Making Sense of China’s Social Credit System and Its Implications. Cambridge University Press.

Dalton, T., Zhao, T., & Gupta, R. (2020, October 29). After the Border Clash, Will China-India Competition Go Nuclear? Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Economy, E. C. (2018, May). The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-190-86607-5

Feldstein, S. (2020, February 12). When it Comes to Digital Authoritarianism, China is a Challenge — But Not the Only Challenge. War on the Rocks.

Feldstein, S. (2019, September 17). The Global Expansion of AI Surveillance. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Gaida, J., Leung, J. W., Robin, S., & Cave, D. (2023). ASPI’s Critical Technology Tracker: The global race for future power. Australia Strategic Policy Institute. ISSN 2209-9689

Gazis, O., & Yilek, C. (2023, March 8) China "most consequential threat" to U.S. national security, top intelligence official says. CBS News.

Goldberg, P. K., Khandelwal, A. K., & Pavcnik, N. (2010). Imported intermediate inputs and domestic product growth: evidence from India. Q J Econ. 125(4):1727–1767

Grabow, C., & Rose, L. (2018, May 21). The US has had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined. CNN.

Han, K. H. (2021, October 29). The dawn of China biopharma innovation. McKinsey.

Human Rights Watch. (2019, May 1). China’s Algorithms of Repression. Human Rights Watch.

Hussain, F., Hussain, Z., Khan, M. I., & Imran, A. (2023). The digital rise and its economic implications for China through the Digital Silk Road under the Belt and Road Initiative. Asian Journal of Comparative Politics.

Ito B., Yashiro N., & Xu, Z. (2012). How do Chinese industries benefit from FDI spillovers? China Econ Rev. 23(2):342–356

Khalil, L. (2020, November 2). Digital Authoritarianism, China and COVID. Lowy Institute.

Liu, W., & Dunford, M. (2016). Inclusive globalization: unpacking China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Area Development and Policy Vol.1, No.3, p.323-340. DOI: 10.1080/23792949.2016.1232598

Maizland, L. (2022, September 22). China’s Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Council on Foreign Relations.

Marcus, L. (2021, July 21). China debuts world's fastest train. CNN.

Mistreanu, S. (2018, April 4). China is implementing a massive plan to rank its citizens, and many of them want in. Foreign Policy.

Nye, J. S. (1990). The Changing Nature of World Power. Political Science Quarterly, vol. 105, no. 2, 177–92. JSTOR.

Ruta, M., Dappe, M. H., Lall, S., Zhan, C., Constantinescu, C., Lebrand, M., Mulabdic, A., & Churchill, E. (2019, June 18). Belt and Road Economics: Opportunities and Risks of Transport Corridors.World Bank. DOI: 10.1596/978-1-4648-1392-4

Shen, Y. (2018, January 9). Probing into the “Chinese Solution” for the Transformation of Global Governance By ShenYamei. CAIFC.

Stavridis, J. (2022, August 9). A US-China War Over Taiwan Isn't Happening Anytime Soon. Bloomberg.

Sullivan, J., & Brands, H. (2020, May 22). China Has Two Paths To Global Domination. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Thorton, S.A (2022, February 11). Rival of America’s Making? The Debate Over Washington’s China Strategy. Foreign Affairs.

Tsafos, N. (2022, March 17). China’s Climate Change Strategy and U.S.- China Competition. Center for Strategic and International Studies.

UNEP (UN Environment Programme). (2023). The Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC). United Nations Environment Program.

Wang, M. (2021, April 8). China’s Techno-Authoritarianism Has Gone Global. Human Rights Watch.

Whyte, M. K. (2021) China’s economic development history and Xi Jinping’s “China dream:” an overview with personal reflections. Chinese Sociological Review, 115-134. DOI: 10.1080/21620555.2020.1833321

World Resources Institute (WRI). (2022, April 21). WRI Co-hosts International Roundtable on Green Development Guidance for BRI Projects. World Resources Institute China.

Yan, X. (2018, December 11). The Age of Uneasy Peace.Foreign Affairs.

Yang, Z. (2022, November 22). China just announced a new social credit law. Here’s what it means. MIT Technology Review.

Young, E.P., McKnight, B.E, Hucker, C. O., Zürcher, E., DeWoskin, K. J., Keightley, D. N., Feuerwerker, A., Lewis, J.W., White, L., Dull, J. L., Liu, J.T.C., Hsu, C., Silbergeld, J., Wilbur, C. M., Chen, C., Rawski, E. S. , Lieberthal, K. G., Elman, B., Franke, H., Chan, H., Suzuki, C., & Twitchett, D. C. (2023). China. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Zhu, H. (2023, April). China's TOP10 breakthroughs in science and technology in 2022. National Science Review. 10(4).