China and the United States: A balance of power

William Jeffery Stephens


Throughout world history states have banded together to form coalitions, alliances, and economic agreements with each other to protect and secure their borders, develop their economic prosperity, and grow their political relationships. Alliances, economic agreements, and political relationships have come and gone, decreased or increased, and continue to be at times as fluid as water. During the Cold War the international system had a bipolar structure, with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies balancing against the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. What makes countries align themselves with other countries economically, politically and militarily? There are many questions that have yet to be answered and some that probably never will. Since the end of the Cold War China has begun to develop into the next balancing superpower to the United States, a position that was previously held by the Soviet Union. This dissertation will identify the various realist and neo-realist theories as to why governments form military alliances or coalitions, and economic and political relationships, along with the factors that alliance theories are formed on. It will also posit the theory that China and the United States could produce the next Balance of Power in the international system. As China has increased its military strength, political influence, and economic power, its capacity to counter or balance against the United States and its allies has also increased. China is filling the void once held by the Soviet Union by increasing its political influence, economic power, and its security relative to that of the United States since the end of the Cold War.