The rise of China, and other states whose material power and ideational aspirations have outpaced that of their peers, presents an interesting challenge to international relations theorists. Structural theories rooted in realism tend to predict that changes in material power inexorably lead to conflict that reshuffles the pecking order at the pinnacle of the international system. Such theories also tend to ignore identity and other ideational factors that may condition the interaction of rising and dominant great powers. This article develops a theoretical approach to state socialisation of rising powers. While considering the importance of increasing material capabilities, this approach also examines the types of roles that states occupy in the international social system and the ability of great powers to socialise rising powers into what they consider to be appropriate roles. The 1995-1996 Taiwan Straits Crisis is analysed through this theoretical framework to demonstrate that although both China and the United States attempted to altercast each other in a socialisation process, neither was successful. China pursued its own, self-conceived role conceptions in the situation, as did the United States, setting the stage for renewed rivalry between the two powerful states. The case demonstrates the difficulty of constraining rising powers' aspirations when their material power allows them to pursue the identities of their choice, even in the face of strong socialisation efforts from the dominant power and its supporters.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Political Science and International Relations