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PacNet #71 – The “Power Transition”: A Spot Check

Since the early 1990s, analysts have widely recognized that China’s rapid economic growth rate put the PRC on a course to challenge the United States for the position of the region’s strongest power. This realization raised the specter of a “power transition” with a collection of momentous consequences for Asia-Pacific states, not the least of which is the possibility of armed conflict between the United States and China. Even if the end result is still unclear, we can say that this transition has been underway for about two decades because during that period both countries have made policy under the assumptions that China’s total annual GDP will become the world’s highest in a few years, that China’s economic importance and military capabilities will greatly increase, and that the days of unquestioned US strategic supremacy in the region are over.