Flash Points

Themed journeys through our archive.

Is China Declining?

Experts debate the country’s trajectory.

An illustration of China on the precipice of decline as a great power.
An illustration of China on the precipice of decline as a great power.
Deena So’Oteh illustration for Foreign Policy

“Xi Jinping’s China is about to give the world an education in the nuances of decline,” Hal Brands wrote in April, contributing to a heated debate on Beijing’s trajectory and what it means for the United States.

In this collection from our archives are essays at the heart of the debate, exploring the cracks in China’s economic miracle, Beijing’s prospects vis-à-vis Washington’s over the next decade, and the question of whether great-power competition is a useful framework for thinking about the U.S.-China relationship at all.—Chloe Hadavas

The Dangers of China’s Decline

As China’s economic miracle fades, its leaders may become more inclined to take risks, Hal Brands writes.

“Xi Jinping’s China is about to give the world an education in the nuances of decline,” Hal Brands wrote in April, contributing to a heated debate on Beijing’s trajectory and what it means for the United States.

In this collection from our archives are essays at the heart of the debate, exploring the cracks in China’s economic miracle, Beijing’s prospects vis-à-vis Washington’s over the next decade, and the question of whether great-power competition is a useful framework for thinking about the U.S.-China relationship at all.—Chloe Hadavas


People walk past a military propaganda sign that reads “Have spirit! Raise a new generation of spirited, capable, courageous, and morally upright revolutionary soldiers” on a giant screen in Beijing.
People walk past a military propaganda sign that reads “Have spirit! Raise a new generation of spirited, capable, courageous, and morally upright revolutionary soldiers” on a giant screen in Beijing.

People walk past a military propaganda sign that reads “Have spirit! Raise a new generation of spirited, capable, courageous, and morally upright revolutionary soldiers” on a giant screen in Beijing on May 18, 2021.NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

The Dangers of China’s Decline

As China’s economic miracle fades, its leaders may become more inclined to take risks, Hal Brands writes.


A Chinese military band prepares for celebrations.
A Chinese military band prepares for celebrations.

A Chinese military band prepares for celebrations in Beijing on July 1 to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Dangerous Decade of Chinese Power Is Here

Beijing knows time isn’t on its side and wants to act fast, Andrew S. Erickson and Gabriel B. Collins write.


A group of older Chinese adults sits on a bench outside chatting.
A group of older Chinese adults sits on a bench outside chatting.

A group of older Chinese adults enjoys a day in Beijing on April 7, 2007.AFP/AFP via Getty Images

A Shrinking China Can’t Overtake America

But if U.S. democracy continues to decay, FP’s Howard W. French writes, what’s the point of being on top?


U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Nov. 9 in Beijing, China. (Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Nov. 9 in Beijing, China. (Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Nov. 9 in Beijing, China. (Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)

The U.S. Doesn’t Need China’s Collapse to Win

A misguided theory of great-power competition will only lead to grief, Robert A. Manning writes.


Fighter jets preparing to take off from the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier as it sails in South China Sea on its way to Singapore on Oct. 16, 2019.
Fighter jets preparing to take off from the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier as it sails in South China Sea on its way to Singapore on Oct. 16, 2019.

Fighter jets preparing to take off from the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier as it sails in South China Sea on its way to Singapore on Oct. 16, 2019.Photo by Catherine LAI / AFP) (Photo by CATHERINE LAI/AFP via Getty Images

Great-Power Competition Is a Recipe for Disaster

The latest poorly defined buzzword in Washington is leading pundits and policymakers down a dangerous path, FP’s Emma Ashford writes.

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