The Battle of the Fading Hegemons

Traditionally, a strong rising power has challenged a weakening incumbent, making the outcome preordained. But the outcome of the current struggle between China and the United States is far from inevitable, because the powers of both the aspirant and the incumbent are eroding – albeit in different ways.

CAMBRIDGE – Almost a decade ago, China bulls like Martin Jacques and I predicted the rise of the People’s Republic at the expense of a declining United States. Today, with the two superpowers unabashedly jostling for hegemony – their trade war being just one sign of this – it is time for a fresh assessment.

It is tempting to view the US-China rivalry as just another superpower transition in a long line going back to the classical shift of power from Athens to Sparta. But this case is different.

Traditionally, a strong rising power has challenged a weakening incumbent, making the outcome preordained. The only question was whether the transition would be peaceful or violent.

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