America's Challenge: Engaging a Rising China in the Twenty-First Century

Michael D. Swaine Book May 31, 2011 Washington
As the world’s predominant political, economic, and military force, the United States faces a significant challenge in responding to China’s rising power and influence, especially in Asia. This challenge will require more effective U.S. policies and a reassessment of America’s fundamental strategic assumptions and relationships.

The emergence of China on the world scene constitutes the most significant event in world politics since the end of World War II. Given its size, location, dynamism, and unconventional approach to many global issues, a rapidly growing China will reshape the global distribution of power and major issues confronting the international community.

As the world’s predominant political, economic, and military force, the United States faces a significant challenge in responding to China’s rising power and influence, especially in Asia. This challenge will require more effective U.S. policies and a reassessment of America’s fundamental strategic assumptions and relationships.

Offering a fresh perspective on current and near-term U.S. policy toward China, Michael Swaine examines the basic beliefs behind U.S.-China relations, recent policy practices by both countries, and the future trends most likely to affect U.S. policy. American leaders, he concludes, must develop policies to sustain America’s economic and technological prowess and improve the U.S. strategic position. Otherwise, Washington will have a hard time maintaining a stabilizing presence in East Asia, shaping regional and Chinese strategic perceptions, and managing key policy issues.

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Reviews for this publication

"As Washington gropes for a new paradigm to structure this all-important bilateral relationship, diplomats, military strategists, and concerned citizens on both sides of the Pacific would do well to reflect carefully on Michael Swaine’s new treatise, which is a masterpiece that will set the standard in the field of policy analysis for decades to come.

"The fact that the book covers issues as disparate as naval strategy, trade negotiations, and energy cooperation—handling each of these complex topics and many others with admirable sophistication—is a tribute to the wide experience, intellectual depth, and solid research of the author. In this respect, the book is without peer."

Lyle Goldstein, Naval War College


“China’s rise presents America with its biggest foreign policy challenge. This book comprehensively and deftly lays out the considerations relevant to wise policy formulation. Swaine offers analysis and recommendations in a manner that both informs and enlightens. It will be an invaluable resource for policymakers, concerned citizens, and students.”

J. Stapleton Roy, former U.S. ambassador to China


“For the last two decades Michael Swaine has provided some of the most enlightening and accurate views of Chinese thought. Here he engineers a convincing logic of the need to reassess our strategy in the U.S.-China relationship. His recommendations lay the foundation for the necessary debate.”

Joseph W. Prueher, former U.S. ambassador to China, former commander, U.S. Pacific Command, and James Schlesinger Distinguished Professor at the Miller Center, University of Virginia


“A significant and needed contribution to the literature on U.S.-China relations. Some conclusions are striking and will prove controversial.”

Aaron L. Friedberg, Professor at Princeton University and former deputy assistant to the vice president for national security affairs


“Swaine’s comprehensive, intensively researched analysis of trends in U.S.-China relations and sophisticated judgments on the opportunities, pitfalls, and prospects for American China policy deserve wide attention.”

Alice Miller, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University


“This book is unusually important—a ‘must-read’ by specialists who are concerned with U.S.-China relations.”

— Robert Sutter, Visiting Professor of Asian Studies at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University


“Swaine comprehensively reviews the U.S.-Chinese relationship, which he sees as marked by an awkward combination of suspicion and interdependence."

Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs

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About the Asia Program

The Carnegie Asia Program in Beijing and Washington provides clear and precise analysis to policy makers on the complex economic, security, and political developments in the Asia-Pacific region.


In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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