China’s rapid economic ascent over the past three decades offers an important opportunity to study economic ascent and its potential to transform the world economy as it happens. This “real-time” opportunity avoids the analytic traps of post-hoc examinations of long term structural change that may neglect agency, understate the role of competition between states and firms, and imply that the outcome was historically inevitable. The current severe challenges to U.S. hegemony economically and politically provide an analytic window for studying hegemonic competition and long term change.
This paper analyzes China’s efforts to resolve the most fundamental obstacle to sustained rapid economic ascent, how to achieve low cost, secure access to a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse volume of raw materials that can provide a competitive advantage over other ascendant nations and the existing hegemon. China’s raw materials access strategies combine reliance on existing systems built by earlier ascendant economies with efforts to steal these earlier ascendants’ raw materials peripheries by offering what appear to be better deals to raw materials exporting states and firms. These strategies are quite similar to those of the U.S. vis a vis Great Britain during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and to those of Japan vis a vis the U.S. in the second half of the twentieth century. The success of these Chinese strategies is far from guaranteed, but this paper will analyze these strategies and their successes and challenges in the early twenty-first century.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/paul_ciccantell/7/