A gradual progression as was America’s at the end of the 19th century (Zakaria, 1998:5) increases the likelihood of a peaceful transition whereas an expansionist rise as was Russia’s at the turn of the last century is perceived as threatening. The image is how China portrays itself to the outside world, whether its words and deeds are seen as inviting conflict or allaying fears and giving reassurances.
Another important factor concerns how well China fits in (or not) with the existing international order. The greater it works within the existing structures and rules and in a legitimate manner, at least for now before it attempts to reshape those structures and rules, the more it will be relating to other nations and be accepted. It is being aloof and closed, as is the case with North Korea today that raises suspicions even if it has peaceful intentions. Moreover, working within the existing order upholds the status quo and keeps the present superpower content, at least openly.
The military strengths of China impinge upon its ability to ‘force’ a peaceful transition by diminishing the capabilities of rivals to engage in conflict. The power and size of the army creates a barrier to any attempts to weaken the country. On the other hand, many countries around the world, which are at the receiving end of aggression such as Iraq and Afghanistan, become targets for exploitation by stronger powers because they do not have armies powerful enough to be deterrence. The biggest deterrence in this age is the possession of nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan for example have rivalries and potential for conflict as in the past but they are deterred because both now possess nuclear weapons.
The country also needs to have strong economic and social structures that reinforce its position, and an intelligentsia that is supportive of its aspirations. In fact, the rise and