This article challenges the dominant view that China has risen, and that its economic ascent has created a restless empire poised to overturn the liberal international order. This author argues that China's deep integration into the global economy from the early 1990s onward, as necessitated by both Chinese domestic politics and America's grand strategy of drawing China out, has eventually set the country on a path of dependent development and has made China not a solid superpower candidate, but rather a fragile great power. It is ironic that it is the empire-sized country's entrapment in semi-peripheral development, rather than its economic-technological ‘rise’, that has inevitably led to the return of great power rivalry and the coming of the new Cold War.
- An accurate assessment of China's developmental outcome is urgently needed in order to make globalization better and thus to make the world safe for democracy rather than autocracy.
- Integrating China into the global economy is counterproductive for both China and the West in political and strategic terms, as it has led to not only the country's totalitarian turn, but also the ‘return of great power rivalry’ – a foregone conclusion as this essay suggests.
- Decoupling from China (at least partially) is conducive to the nominally Communist state's ultimate turning toward inclusive growth and democratic transformation in the long term.
- A global consensus is required to accommodate a democratizing China committed to autonomous development at home and pacifism in international affairs.