The Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs is published by SAIS Europe, and is a publication of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies

Our Mission

We aim to publish an international affairs journal of the highest quality for academics, policy makers, and professionals who are interested in the world's most pressing issues.

Volume 17

The Editorial Board of the Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs is excited to announce the theme of the Journal's 17th edition, "Stalemates".

Previous editions of the Journal may be viewed here.



Power Cycle Theory, the Shifting Tides of History, and Statecraft:

Interpreting China's Rise

Charles Doran

Abstract: Integrating China into the global balance of power and the community of nations is the greatest challenge facing statecraft in the 21st century. According to power cycle theory, the “single dynamic” that has always mapped the structural trends of history is shaping China’s power cycle. This cycle will contain the same “critical points” of suddenly shifted trends that challenged every other rising power historically, all too frequently ending in major war. Viewing history’s dynamic through the lens of meanings embedded in the power cycle trajectories, this article argues for careful management of the future systems transformation that will occur.

Introduction and Definitions

Today, as throughout history, a single dynamic of structural change is shaping the power cycles of all the great powers – and the expectations that each state has about its future security and foreign policy role.1 The overriding concern of statecraft today is the quintessential problem that a century ago preoccupied the founders of the field of international relations and world statesmen negotiating international regimes, witnesses to history’s plunge into the First World War. At issue is integrating an increasingly powerful great state into the existing global balance of power and community of nations experiencing the challenges of structural change. This is something that has proven to be extraordinarily difficult. Today China is the state ascending to great power status. China has been accelerating up its power cycle for several decades now, and like rising great powers throughout history, China has begun to push for a greater foreign policy role. 

I will interpret this issue from the perspective of power cycle theory. Its lessons are striking. In 1989 the world anticipated that skyrocketing Japan would become the new “Number One.” I could assert on the contrary that Japan’s peak on its power cycle was imminent because China’s much smaller yet ever-increasing gains in absolute terms were severely constraining Japan’s further gains in relative share. Today I emphasize a lesson of power cycle theory regarding ineluctable structural constraints on China’s ascendancy in the global system. The very same principles of relative power change that have always mapped the structural trends of history are shaping China’s power cycle, and that cycle will contain the same “critical points” of suddenly shifted trends that have challenged every other rising power historically and that, all too frequently, have ended in major war.

What is the “power cycle”? What is a “shifted trend” on the cycle, and what do I mean by the “shifting tides of history” in the title of this paper? During the past decade, the related term “power shift,” the theme of this issue, has appeared in the title of numerous articles and books with very broad differences of conceptualization. Those meanings go well beyond the classical notion of a “shift in the balance,” a notion that has a long and familiar tradition in the literature on diplomatic history and the balance of power. The term sometimes refers to a general sense of changing relative power, wherein some states are rising, some states declining. Other authors use the term to mean a change in the hierarchy (a so-called transition). Elsewhere power shift refers to a state’s shift from rise into decline, although not necessarily at the state’s peak or irrevocably. In this essay I will explain the other two concepts, the “power cycle” and history’s “shifting tides,” for they are my own, have precise meaning, and account for much of the variance in the onset of major war. We will use a schematic across 600 years of history that I conceptualized over 45 years ago in assessing historically the very same issues that confront us today in facing the rise of China. What do we mean by the rise and decline of states, and why has it been so traumatic historically? What is the “foreign policy role” both as a conceptual category and as a practice in statecraft?

Power cycle theory offers a dynamic understanding of history which is anchored in and speaks to the particulars of state power and foreign policy behavior as they evolve, moment by moment, across long periods of history. Everything is emergent; nothing is deterministic. The theory establishes and discloses meanings embedded in the power cycle trajectory, meanings that capture at once the structures, concerns, and behaviors of international politics experienced at each moment in statecraft. Thus, the full meaning of power cycle theory emerges within the particulars of history itself. My presentation of the theory will move back and forth from the analytic and general to the historical particulars.

From the power cycle perspective, power is what government officials and diplomats perceive it to be. Perceptions of power have been shown to be highly correlated with a bundle of indicators of national capability – variables such as GDP, per capita wealth, size of armed forces, military spending, population size, and the capacity for technological innovation – that together facilitates a state’s ability to carry out a foreign policy role and, hence, compose the state power cycle. Most importantly, the power cycle is a cycle of “relative” power in a very specific sense. Each state in the central system (or a regional system) possesses a percentage share of overall power in that system at any given time. States in the system “compete” for relative power share, where the “competition for share” depends on the differing levels and rates of absolute growth among the states comprising the system at each moment in time. But there are undercurrents within this structural dynamic that create the “power shifts” at issue in power cycle theory. To discern history’s dynamic, we must understand how historical trends and suddenly shifted trends on the state power cycles impact the expectations and behaviors of statecraft.

For didactic reasons, it is useful to inventory some key features and concepts of the theory at the outset, assisted by the graphics in Figure 1 and the historical dynamic depicted in Figure 2. Power cycle theory establishes and explains:

  •  the “single dynamic” of state and system which sets the power cycles in motion – namely, the competitive dynamic whereby, at each point in time, each state’s absolute growth rate contributes to and differs from the system’s resulting average absolute growth rate (the “systemic norm”);
  •  the “first fundamental principle of the power cycle,” which holds that a state rises (or declines) in relative power if and only if its absolute growth rate is greater (or less) than the systemic norm;
  •  the “second fundamental principle of the power cycle,” whereby a rising state accelerates up its power cycle (as its “growth rate advantage” increases with size) until it reaches a level at which its own absolute growth begins to increasingly weight the systemic norm (decelerating its “growth rate advantage”), so that thereafter the state increasingly “competes against itself” as well as against other states for a larger share of power (feeling for the first time the effect of the “bounds of the system”);
  •  the “bounds of the system,” which effectively both limits a state’s growth in relative share – even, counterintuitively, when the state continues to have dynamic absolute growth and its gains in absolute power continue to be far greater than the absolute gains of competing states – and contours the nonlinear change on its power cycle;
  •  the resulting “nonlinear pattern” of the power cycle, wherein the state’s accelerating rise abruptly shifts (at an inflection point) to decelerating rise until it reaches a peak level of relative share, followed by accelerating decline that abruptly shifts (at an inflection point) to decelerating decline;
  •  the state’s “competitiveness” in the system as reflected in the “slope” of its power cycle – that is, in the direction of change on the power cycle indicated by the line drawn tangent to the cycle at each succeeding point.

This line tangent to the power cycle at a given point in time gives us access to the perceptions and expectations of the historical moment. Like the statesman in history, the analyst grasps the full significance of systemic bounds in the “discordant expectations” that arise with no warning as the state traverses its cycle. Power cycle theory further establishes and explains:

  •  the “trend of the power cycle” (conveyed by its changing slope) as reflecting “the tides of history” and “the perspective of statecraft,” providing a foundation for the state’s future security and foreign policy “expectations;”
  •  the abrupt and irrevocable “shift in the trend of the power cycle” that occurs at a “critical point” (experienced as the “shifting tides of history”) when powerful “structural undercurrents” in the single dynamic make the state’s long-developing historical trend suddenly shift direction – exposing the “structural bounds on statecraft” that, counterintuitively and without warning, alter what is possible and likely in statecraft itself, in particular establishing ineluctable structural constraints on the ascendancy of a great power;
  •  the abrupt “shocks to foreign policy perception” that occur at those critical points when – amidst radically conflicting messages in absolute and relative power change – the state is abruptly pulled onto a new, unexpected, and uncertain course; 
  •  the “foreign policy expectations” tied to the slope of the state power cycle at each point in its historical experience as providing the basis for planning and carrying out effective foreign policy roles;
  •  the sudden “discontinuity in foreign policy expectations” that occurs at a critical point, and therefore the moment in statecraft when “everything changes” – when the “shifting tides of history” impact the ability to act in foreign policy terms;
  • “systems transformation,” where the undercurrents shifting the tides of history force several states to pass through critical points at about the same time, causing huge political uncertainty to ricochet throughout the system, forcing revision of foreign policy expectations, and greatly increasing the probability of major war – wars of long duration, intense battlefield casualties, and the highest magnitude in that it involves most, if not all, of the great powers fighting for highly-valued stakes;
  • a strong positive correlation between critical change on the power cycle and major war, both for individual states and during systems transformation.

This dictionary of concepts, dynamic principles, meanings, and implications reproduces the lessons and the logic of history that underpin the power cycle interpretation of statecraft.


Figure 1.  Limits of Power: Bounds on Relative Growth

1A. The Dynamics of Absolute and Relative Capability: Principles of the Power Cycle  (The “Single Dynamic” of Changing Systems Structure)

*Curves of absolute growth rate (depicted is an accelerating system):
                   A: major power system           B: state B                 C: entire system

*Critical points:
                    F: first inflection point             Z: zenith                   L: last inflection point

Source: Doran (1971: 193).  This figure appears as figure 3.1 in Doran (1991: 63), and as figure 1A in Doran (2003: 22) where the lower left label was incorrectly labeled but is corrected here.

1B. Delusions based on (a) Huge Absolute Gains and (b) Absolute Divergence

Assumed here are constant rates of absolute growth (no decrease or increase in % growth rate), so that the trend of absolute gain – in upper graph of (a) and both graphs of (b) – shows continuing increase in absolute gain, but the trend of gain in relative share (lower left) shifts from increasing to decreasing relative gain.


In brief, power cycle theory establishes the fundamental principles of the “single dynamic,” whereby absolute growth rate differentials across states in the system set the power cycles in motion (via alterations of the systemic average growth rate) and create a particular nonlinear pattern of change on each state’s relative power trajectory, which is interpreted as reflecting the “perspective of statecraft” – giving thereby a very specific meaning to the concern that the “tides of history” have changed, a meaning absent from balance-of-power assessment. This competition for power share produces powerful undercurrents that contour structural change via critical shifts in the state power cycles, and each of these so-called “critical points” matter in an existential sense as the state traverses its cycle:

  • a lower turning point beginning a state cycle: “birth throes of a major power”
  • an inflection point on its rising trajectory: “trauma of constrained ascendancy”
  • an upper turning point: “trauma of expectations foregone”
  • an inflection point on its declining trajectory: “hopes and illusions of the second wind”
  • a lower turning point at the end of the cycle: “throes of demise as a major power.

Each critical point corresponds in the state’s experience to a time when the tides of history have shifted in the international system.

Viewing History’s Dynamic

Let us turn to the power cycle view of history’s dynamic in Figure 2, moving gradually to ever more detailed fact and analytic meaning. Like waves in some ocean sweeping forward across the international politics of time, the power cycles of individual states in the central system are distinct, implacable, and enduring. Across these six centuries, states have competed for power share, attempted to establish and advance their foreign policy roles, and struggled against the “bounds of the system” that limits and contours their cycles of relative power and role possibilities. This “single dynamic” of state and system establishes the number of players in the central system, which player has power when, where, and how, and how the rules of balance emerge. Rising and declining states interact conjointly and cooperatively as well as competitively. 

Figure 2. Dynamics of Changing Systems Structure


Legend: Each curve represents the state’s evolving Percent Share of Power in the Central System, 1500-1993.  This representation stresses the “historical trends” in changing relative power and is not to be taken as a precise metric for the actual levels attained.

Source: Conceptualized by Doran (1965; updated 1981, 1989, 1993), based on estimations for the period 1500 to 1815, and data for the years 1815-1993).

Amplitude and periodicity vary with each state cycle: from the very lengthy cycle of France that encompasses the entire 600 years of the graph, to the quite abbreviated cycle for Sweden; and from the towering power levels of the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Complex, France, Britain, and the United States to the more diminutive cycle of the Dutch Republic. In each historical period a complex balance emerges. In the 16th century, both the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Spanish-Austrian Complex contended with France (and to some lesser extent the declining Venetian Empire) for role within the central system. In the 17th century, seven actors struggled for role intermittently: the Habsburg Complex, France, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Sweden, the Dutch Republic (more briefly), and ultimately Britain. For most of the next two centuries, states on their power cycles shaped a five-actor system in which the Ottoman Empire, Sweden and the Dutch Republic all declined in relative power terms such that they dropped out of the central system. France, Britain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia became the major players in Europe, with the rise of Japan and the United States on the outskirts. Only briefly was the system ever characterized by a dyadic relationship, with bipolarity emerging between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1945 and collapsing abruptly with the sudden demise of the Soviet Union in 1989.

The central system, Eurocentric for 500 years, began a move to the wider world by the end of the 19th century with the entry of the United States and Japan. But the struggle for power and role in the first half of the 20th century was centered firmly within the European state system. Imagine omitting the curves for Japan and the United States from Figure 1, so that competition for share is limited to the European great power system. The power cycles of Germany, Britain, France, and Russia would all increase proportionally, and the seemingly diminutive rise of Germany would appear as a towering rush to a peak circa 1913-14, before the onset of the First World War. Data restricted to the European system before August 1914 confirm that the peaking of Germany occurred before the war and was not an artifact of either the entry of new great powers or Germany’s defeat in the war. Power cycle theory argues that Germany abruptly peaked in 1914 despite its unabated absolute dynamism because of the accumulating tiny increases in power of newly industrializing Russia. Germany had bumped against the “bounds of the system” and confronted “the trauma of expectations foregone.”

We see long intervals of history where change in the power cycles is essentially linear for nearly all of the states, for instance during most of the 19th century. Foreign policy is thus rather predictable and major war less likely. We see, in contrast, shorter intervals in which many state power cycles show characteristic critical points of sudden shift in the trend – peaks that abruptly turn into decline; inflection points that abruptly halt an accelerating rise (or decline), forcing thereafter a rise (or decline) at an ever declining rate. We see many transitions, where two states shift rank in the hierarchy, but such shifts in relative rank are neither surprising nor counterintuitive, for they occur simultaneously with a transition in absolute power.

Between 1648 and about 1665, five states (perhaps six) experienced critical change on their power cycles. This is extraordinary: all of these critical changes crammed into a mere 16 or so years. Similar to the interwar period in the 20th century, the mid-17th century systems transformation was explosive because it encompassed so many great powers and because all of this aggravated structural change occurred in so short an interval. In each case, the critical changes unleashed the most massive wars the world had ever known: the wars of Louis XIV (1667-1697) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) that engulfed Europe, and World War II, which enmeshed the globe.

If we ask why the 17th century crisis was so wrenching, the power cycle answer is direct. Each great power saw its earlier trend of power and role expectations suddenly shift. Each tugged at the other through deep undercurrents of structural change; the architects of the balance of power sought order in vain. France under the reign of Louis XIV, experiencing constrained ascendancy of the first inflection point, attempted to consolidate its territory and concentrate its power at the expense of everyone else. (Germany reacted similarly 200 years later to its own first inflection point in instigating the Franco-Prussian War.) But to concentrate on France in the 17th century systems transformation is to miss all of the dynamics elsewhere that had very little to do with the Sun King. The turmoil unleashed by Sweden vis-à-vis Russia and Poland, by the Habsburg Complex vis-à-vis the Dutch Republic, by the Dutch Republic vis-à-vis Spain and Britain in terms of trade wars, and by the tension between the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Empire, and the Habsburgs – all of these were virtually simultaneous confrontations extending across the entire map of Europe and many of its colonial appendages. The 17th century crisis was a crisis of systems transformation writ large.

The 16th century systems transformation differs in two important respects. Most obvious is the type of critical change involved. All about “down,” the 16th century featured the apex and nascent decline of two great empires, the Habsburg and the Ottoman. All about “up,” the 17th century featured the rapid ascendancy of two great emergent states, France and Britain, each of which experienced the trauma of constrained ascendancy of the first inflection point. More significant in an evolutionary sense, the 16th century was about empires, particularly the last of the primarily intra-European empires. Conversely, the 17th century transformation was about states, specifically the deepening of the modern system of independent great states 2. In neither case was the stereotypical depiction of hegemon and challenger evident in state behavior. Composed of many actors vying for power and foreign policy role, each central system reflected competitive efforts to expand and to contract, to disperse and to concentrate. In each case, systems transformation occurred because the old order was crumbling. With the chessboard of statecraft twisted, the new order was impossible to conceive and scarcely in the making.

Certainly the immense intensity, duration, and magnitude of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) were in great part due to the involvement of the three largest states, France, Russia, and Britain. Importantly, France and Russia had only recently passed through an upper turning point, exacerbating bitter challenges. Britain may also have reached its upper turning point during the war (certainly not much later), causing it to intensify its war effort. But much more structural change, and political and military assertiveness, was going on than is depicted in Figure 2. The primary members of the Habsburg Complex, Spain and Austria, which were long since severed and quite independent, enjoyed something akin to a renaissance in influence at the end of the 18th century – goaded on by the second wind of the second inflection point. The Dutch Republic also went through a second inflection point. The abrupt upsurge in Dutch, Austrian, and Spanish political and military assertiveness was a prime factor precipitating the massive Napoleonic Wars and surely accounts for their extensiveness.

How does a shifted trend on a state’s power cycle lead to a massive change in governmental expectations about its future foreign policy role and security and increased probability of major war? We have argued that a line tangent to the power curve projects forward the state’s past foreign policy experience. As this tangent (projection) moves along the cycle of a newly rising state, it becomes ever steeper, suggesting ever-greater future prospects. Each extrapolation of the past leads to more confident expectations for the future. But everything suddenly and irremediably changes at the first inflection point. The trajectory of future foreign policy expectations stops turning leftward to the vertical (steepening) and abruptly and unaccountably shifts rightward. Inexplicably, a discontinuity in expectations about future foreign policy role arrives. No structural change is as abrupt or disturbing as a discontinuity in expectations. Everything the government previously thought about its future foreign policy prospects is suddenly proven wrong.

The bound of the system causes relative power to inflect and to peak even while absolute power continues to escalate. Wilhelmian Germany failed to make sense of this dilemma. Philip II of Spain in 1590 could not reconcile soaring Spanish absolute power with peaking Spanish relative power. Disparities in the future trajectories of absolute and relative power came to the surface in the tensions and uncertainties of a critical interval. Gaps between foreign policy role and power, long concealed, are squeezed to the surface during the pushing and shoving that occurs at a critical interval. Governments become assertive, demanding, and belligerent. An inversion of force expectations is likely: governments suddenly confronting massive political uncertainty about high stake matters allow their foreign policy judgment to go awry, convincing themselves that war is a rational option. In short, the anchors of sound policy are cut away.

Interpreting the Rise of China

China has the second largest military budget in the world, and given the Chinese military emphasis on cyber-warfare, submarines, stealth aircraft, space-based systems, and aircraft carriers, there is every reason to believe that China plans to challenge the U.S military presence globally. 3 But such a threat is unlikely in the near future and may indeed never eventuate. At the level of both economic and military power and of per capita wealth, the United States today is the largest actor in the system by a wide margin, and its relative decline – ongoing incrementally since 1970 – will take many more decades. 4 Europe, Russia, and Japan likewise remain important members of the central system with high levels of relative power and wealth. Notwithstanding recent theoretical arguments and policy practices to the contrary, history’s dynamic has never been about a preponderant hegemon and a challenger. The bounds of the system constrain aspirations to hegemonic dominance. Hopefully China and the international system will avoid catastrophe during the difficult structural shifts of the systems transformation that is to come.

All of the members of the central system – the United States, the European Union, Japan, Russia, China, and India – are important regarding how China defines its foreign policy role and whether China is able to “rise peacefully” without threatening its neighbors.5 Obviously, U.S-China relations are central to a stable and secure Asia. However, from the power cycle perspective, the tension is not just between the United States and China. The primary tension is likely to occur between India and China. India is the newcomer at the bottom of the central system and beginning to rise. As India rises, it continually cuts into China’s potential power share, constraining China’s gain even before China passes through its first inflection point. While individual issues could lead to conflict between China and Russia, or China and Japan, as well as with the United States, the primary dynamic of tension is between India and China because India is causing China to lose momentum on China’s upward power cycle trajectory.

Although in a normal period of history, major war involving China and other great powers is of very low probability, that probability during systems transformation can soar. China will soon cross its first inflection point. It will continue to increase its level of relative power. Only much later in the 21st century will it peak. But passage through the first inflection point – when the rate of increase of relative power suddenly, and without warning, begins to fall off – will be a gargantuan shock to Chinese expectations about its future foreign policy role and security. Chinese growth in both absolute and relative power has outperformed every other country historically, due to the massive transfer of capital from the developed countries into Chinese manufacturing. Chinese expectations regarding its future world role have also been skyrocketing. As for all states accelerating up their power cycles, every forecast has exceeded all previous forecasts. But at an inflection point, the tides shift, the rate of growth in relative power falls off, and China’s expectations predictably will shatter.

China is also concerned about maintaining a high GDP growth rate. China is only partially developed, and millions of people remain on the land and yearn for a new life in the prosperous Chinese cities. With an estimated 100 million workers roaming the labor markets countrywide, China has argued that it needs an absolute GDP growth rate of at least 8 percent to maintain social order.6 Also, the growth dividend of the one-child policy combined with natural downward pressure on birth rates means that the demographic variable may turn against China. Fewer mouths to feed meant more rapid economic growth in the past; fewer pay checks and a larger fraction of dependents among the older members of the society will translate into a lower savings rate, less investment, and a slower economic growth rate.

A country governed by the communist party, China is today one of the world’s most economically unequal countries. Many of China’s citizens expect to be able to benefit from China’s future growth even if wealth is not actually redistributed. A country beginning to slow down in its economic growth seems to promise less in terms of personal economic mobility. Similarly, a country entering a phase of slower growth in relative power senses the lost promise of unconstrained ascendancy. Chinese absolute growth could be continuing at the same vigorous rate. But an inflection point in Chinese relative power, indicating future constrained ascendancy up its power cycle, can become a symbol of lost hope.

Demonstrations of nationalism to protest the policies of other states – such as visits to the Yakusuni Shrine by Japanese government officials – can also turn against the Chinese government or lend support to more extremist foreign policies. Governments may be tempted to try to appeal to this nationalism by adopting more assertive foreign policies that could then backfire internationally.

In the sphere of Chinese foreign policy per se, an inflection point on the Chinese power cycle will not yield welcome returns. For a government desiring or accustomed to a large foreign policy role, an erosion of foreign policy expectations will likely be especially troubling. 7 Principal issues such as the status of Taiwan, if not already resolved, will be vulnerable to policy recommendations that seek a quick solution whatever the military consequence. Border issues that otherwise might remain neglected may be viewed by some within the decision-making elite as requiring the use of force. Governments such as India and Russia that have kept territorial conflict with China to a minimum may find their hand forced when interacting with a more petulant China. Any unresolved disputes in the South China Sea are likely to take on a “larger than life” quality, making conflict management there even more cumbersome. Any exogenous shocks, such as those involving North Korea, will become far less manageable during systems transformation.

For a society in which the legacy of Confucian values is still strong, the notion of “face” is as important at the societal level as at the individual level. Decimated foreign policy expectations at an inflection point are all about “face,” about foregone foreign policy role, and about possibly inflated fears regarding future security. Hence other governments confronting their own security fears and anticipated challenges to national interests will find interaction with a besieged China during a systems transformation especially difficult.

Managing systems transformations historically have been uncertain and contested. Of the six systems transformations in the modern state paradigm, only the most recent one led to a peaceful outcome. China and its neighbors and competitors must recognize two realities.

(1) Japan has already peaked in relative power terms. China will pass through an inflection point of slowing relative power growth. Other governments in the central system may also pass through critical points on their respective power cycles. Together all of these structural events would constitute a systems transformation in the 21st century.

(2) For China to enjoy a “peaceful rise,” it must contend with the challenges of future systems transformation just as the other members of the system had to in the past. Other governments must learn to preserve their security and interests while assisting China to traverse this projected and particularly stressful interval future history.8


1. Power cycle theory was first articulated in published form in Charles F. Doran, The Politics of Assimilation: Hegemony and Its Aftermath (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971). For a full elaboration, see Charles F. Doran, Systems in Crisis: New Imperatives of High Politics at Century’s End (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), and the special volume, Charles F. Doran, “Power Cycle Theory and Global Politics,” International Political Science Review 24, no. 1 (January 2003).

2. For two among many contrasting interpretations of the meaning and possibility of empire, see Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and John Owen IV, The Clash of Ideas in World Politics: Transnational Networks, States, and Regime Change 1510-2010 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

3. Aaron L. Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery of Asia (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011).

4. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., The Future of Power (New York: Public Affairs Press), 202-203.

5. Henry Kissinger, On China (New York: Penguin Books, 2011).

6. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, on March 5, 2009, to the National People’s Congress. See Blaskar Prasad, “China Growth Rate for 2012 Can Be Less Than 8 Percent,” International Business Times, February 23, 2012.

7. David M. Lampton, The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).

8. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power (New York: Basic Books, 2011).


Charles F. Doran is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Relations at The Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS, Washington, D.C. In his first book in 1971, Doran developed power cycle theory to analyze contemporary international relations in dynamic terms; it has been widely tested, replicated, and applied. In 2002, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, India, sponsored a research symposium on power cycle theory, and an entire issue of the International Political Science Review (2003) was devoted to the theory. Doran delivered a series of lectures at the Sorbonne (Paris I) in 2001, and the Alistair Buchan Club Lecture at Oxford University in 2004. In 2006, Doran received the Distinguished Scholar Award (Foreign Policy) from the International Studies Association.

Main | Power Shifts in the Arab Spring: »