We know that China is rising, but what will China do with that power? Distracted by power trends, both American policymakers and political scientists have not paid enough attention to purpose--what states intend to do with their power. Power is critical in international relations, but it is not destiny. The dominant lens for understanding the rise of China has been power transition theory, which insightfully probes the effects of power trajectories between rising and falling countries (e.g., the expected future of China and the United States). Yet what we also need to understand is "purpose transition"--that is, when and why the core intentions of countries in international politics change. This is a critical question because China today is mostly a cooperative participant in the existing international order. Will it remain so? And what can the United States do to shape that trajectory?
Copyright © 2008 by Cornell University. This book chapter is included by permission of the publisher, Cornell University Press, with all rights reserved. This book chapter first appeared in China's Ascent: Power, Security, and the Future of International Politics.
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Legro, Jeffrey W. "Purpose Transitions: China and the American Response." In China's Ascent: Power, Security, and the Future of International Politics, edited by Robert S. Ross and Zhu Feng, 163-187. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.