Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) honour guard uses a string to ensure members of the honour guard are standing in a straight line in Beijing July 7, 2014.
Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

Geopolitics didn’t return; it never went away. The arc of history bends toward delusion. Every hegemon thinks it is the last; all ages believe they will endure forever. In reality, of course, states rise, fall, and compete with one another along the way. And how they do so determines the world’s fate.

Now as ever, great-power politics will drive events, and international rivalries will be decided by the relative capacities of the competitors—their material and human capital and their ability to govern themselves and their foreign affairs effectively. That means the course of the coming century will largely be determined by how China and the United States manage their power resources and their relationship.

Just as the free-trading United Kingdom allowed its rival, imperial Germany, to grow strong, so the free-trading United States has done the same with China. It was not dangerous for the liberal hegemon

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  • STEPHEN KOTKIN is John P. Birkelund ‘52 Professor in History and International Affairs at Princeton University and a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
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