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

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

Chinese Space Ambition
The American Foreign Policy Council’s Space Strategy podcast


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