U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping look down during their news conference in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 12, 2014. 
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Great power" is a vague term, but China deserves it by any measure: the extent and strategic location of its territory, the size and dynamism of its population, the value and growth rate of its economy, the massive size of its share of global trade, and the strength of its military. China has become one of a small number of countries that have significant national interests in every part of the world and that command the attention, whether willingly or grudgingly, of every other country and every international organization. And perhaps most important, China is the only country widely seen as a possible threat to U.S. predominance. Indeed, China's rise has led to fears that the country will soon overwhelm its neighbors and one day supplant the United States as a global hegemon. 

But widespread perceptions of China as an aggressive, expansionist power are off base. Although China's relative

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  • ANDREW J. NATHAN is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. Andrew Scobell is Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation. This essay is adapted from their forthcoming book, China’s Search for Security (Columbia University Press, 2012). © Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell.
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