US-China Great Power Competition

Chinese soldiers from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) 196th Infantry Brigade perform drill at their barracks in Yangcun, 100 km east of Beijing, China

The U.S.-China Great Power Competition

How China builds power and what the United States can do to protect its interests at home and around the world

Rising power strategies

How has China managed to build power from a weaker resource position in a U.S.-led international system? A new conceptual framework answers this question and elucidates how the United States can counter unfavorable Chinese activities and successfully compete with China.

Research Focus

The most crucial challenge facing U.S. policymakers today is how to prevail in great power competition with China. The first step to devising an effective U.S. strategy for great power competition is to understand and correctly characterize how China builds power and influence in the international system. Yet serious analysis to answer this question is scant.

The U.S.-China Great Power Competition project aims to fill in this gap. Drawing heavily on Chinese sources and engaging with experts from the diplomatic, economic, technology, and military sectors, it pieces together the logic behind Chinese actions and behavior in foreign policy, military strategy, and the economics and technology realms.

The project uses the crucial case of China’s rise over the past 25 years to explore what shapes the strategic approach of rising powers as they accumulate influence, where they imitate, and where they innovate. It reveals that China builds power largely by differentiating itself from the United States. The findings will make significant contributions to key theoretical and policy debates about China’s intentions and goals and, more broadly, how states compete.

This research will result in a book that analyzes and explains the specific policies, strategies, and approaches China has employed over the past 25 years to build enough power to be considered a great power competitor. The book will make vital theoretical and policy contributions to China studies, international relations and power transition theories, and great power competition. It will allow policymakers to better anticipate China’s actions, develop more effective strategies to counter unfavorable Chinese activities, and understand how to push the competition with China into realms where the United States has the upper hand.

Lead Researcher


Oriana Skylar Mastro

FSI Center Fellow

Oriana Skylar Mastro

FSI Center Fellow

Featured Media

Hiding in Plain Sight: How China Builds and Exercises Military Power, 1995 2020
Stanford Seminar

Rethinking Our Assumptions About China’s Strategic Goals
World Class Podcast


Understanding the Challenge of China’s Rise: Fixing Conceptual Confusion about Intentions
In Journal of Chinese Political Science, June 2022
See also Problems with Revisionism: A Conceptual Framework for Assessing Chinese Intentions, APARC website, June 2022 

Chinese Grand Strategy
In Strategy in the Contemporary World, Oxford University Press, March 2022

China's Grand Strategy
Asia Policy 17.1, January 2022

Nuclear Deterrence and the US-China Strategic Relationship
In Alliances, Nuclear Weapons and Escalation: Managing Deterrence in the 21st Century (eds. Stephan Frühling and Andrew O’Neil), ANU Press, December 2021

Military Competition With China: Harder Than the Cold War?
SMA Perspectives, September 2021


Beijing Is Used to Learning from Russian Failures
Foreign Policy, April 2022

North Korea Is Becoming an Asset for China
Foreign Affairs, February 2022

In Defense of AUKUS
The Lowy Institute, October 2021

China’s Dangerous Double Game in North Korea
Foreign Affairs, April 2021

The Soft War That America Is Losing
Australian Financial Review, January 2021

Free Nations Must Speak for Australia
Australian Financial Review, December 2020

The United States Must Avoid a Nuclear Arms Race with China
Cato Unbound, September 2020

The Stealth Superpower
Foreign Affairs, January 2019

In the News

China Looks to Learn from Russia's Shortcomings in Ukraine
NPR, April 2022

China's Lessons from Russia's War in Ukraine
VOA, April 2022

President Biden Presses Chinese President Xi Jinping on Russia
KTVU, March 2022

50 Years After Nixon Visit, U.S.-China Ties as Fraught as Ever
AP News, February 2022

From ‘Momentous’ to ‘Meh’ — Trump's China Trade Deal Letdown
Politico, January 2022

Biden and Xi Agree to Move Toward Arms Control Talks, Says US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
South China Morning Post, November 2021

After 9/11, China Grew into a Superpower as a Distracted US Fixated on Terrorism
NBC News, October 2021

Is U.S. Foreign Policy Too Hostile to China?
Foreign Affairs, October 2021

Balance of Power: Surprise China Missile Test
Bloomberg, October 2021

US-UK-Australia Defend Nuclear Sub Deal
BBC Newshour, September 2021

Why Australia Bet the House on Lasting American Power in Asia
The New York Times, September 2021

US, UK, Australia Announce ‘Historic’ Military Partnership in Move Likely to Anger China
South China Morning Post, September 2021

China's Bold Gamble
The Australian, May 2021

Biden Looks For Defense Hotline With China
Foreign Policy, May 2021

US, China Take a Less Belligerent Tone in Remarks to UN Security Council
South China Morning Post, May 2021

China and Russia's Military Arsenals are Terrifying in Scale — but How Would They Perform in Combat?
The Telegraph, March 2021

The Bidding War
The Wire China, January 2021

China’s Xi Looks to Take Advantage of a Strong Economic Hand
The Wall Street Journal, January 2021

Time for the West to Revisit Its China Narratives
Politico, November 2020