Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

Second Department





China, United States, strategic rivalry, security, conflict


In this thesis, I explore the fragile political relationship between China and the United States. In the past decade, an intensifying level of competition between the two powers is advancing the perception amongst a growing number of Americans that China will one day emerge as a future adversary that will draw the U.S into a strategic rivalry and possible security conflict. The purpose of my thesis is to determine the type of “threat” China presents to the United States, and based on this assessment determine which policies would best increase the possibility for collaboration while limiting the potential for future rivalry between the two powers. I used theories of structural realism to explain the developing power dynamic between China and the United States. I argue against the claims stipulated by proponents of this theory who maintain that a security conflict or strategic rivalry between China and the U.S. is inevitable. Moreover, I also refute the claim that China seeks to grow powerful enough to overturn the existing order. Instead, I take the position that based on China’s international behavior it can be deemed a “rational power” that acts in accordance with its own self-interests. It would be contrary to China’s interests to precipitate a security conflict with the United States over Taiwan because, in the same way the U.S. is economically dependent on China, China is heavily reliant on access to U.S. markets to sustain its current growth levels. From my research, I concluded as China emerges as a global power, the challenges it presents to the U.S. are tempered with greater opportunities for collaboration, reaching beyond commercial interests extending to diplomatic and security matters.