The United States of America has been the most powerful country in the world for over seventy years, but recently the U.S. National Security Strategy declared that the return of great power competition with Russia and China is the greatest threat to U.S. national security. Further, many analysts predict that America’s autocratic rivals will have at least some success in disrupting-and, in the longer term, possibly even displacing-U.S. global leadership. The Return of Great Power Rivalry argues that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Drawing on an extraordinary range of historical evidence and the works of figures like Herodotus, Machiavelli, and Montesquieu and combining it with cutting-edge social science research, Matthew Kroenig advances the riveting argument that democracies tend to excel in great power rivalries. He contends that democracies actually have unique economic, diplomatic, and military advantages in long-run geopolitical competitions. He considers autocratic advantages as well, but shows that these are more than outweighed by their vulnerabilities. Kroenig then shows these arguments through the seven most important cases of democratic-versus-autocratic rivalries throughout history, from the ancient world to the Cold War. Finally, he analyzes the new era of great power rivalry among the United States, Russia, and China through the lens of the democratic advantage argument. By advancing a “hard-power” argument for democracy, Kroenig demonstrates that despite its many problems, the U.S. is better positioned to maintain a global leadership role than either Russia or China.
Matthew Kroenig is a Professor in the Department of Government and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. A 2019 study in Perspectives on Politics ranked him as one of the top 25 most-cited political scientists of his generation. Kroenig is the author or editor of seven books, including The Return of Great Power Rivalry: Democracy versus Autocracy from the Ancient World to the US and China (Oxford University Press, 2020). His other most recent book, The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy: Why Strategic Superiority Matters (Oxford University Press, 2018) was selected by the US Air Force for its professional reading list and was translated into Chinese and Korean. His articles have appeared in many publications, including: American Political Science Review, Annual Review of Political Science, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Organization, International Security, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Strategic Studies, Politico, Security Studies, Strategic Studies Quarterly, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, among others. Kroenig is the Director of the Global Strategy Initiative and Deputy Director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He writes a bi-weekly column for Foreign Policy. Kroenig has served as a national security adviser on the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney (2012), Scott Walker (2016), and Marco Rubio (2016). He has served in several positions in the U.S. Department of Defense and the intelligence community in the Bush and Obama administrations, including in the Strategy office in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the CIA’s Strategic Assessments Group. He regularly consults with a wide range of U.S. government entities. In 2005, Kroenig was the principal author of the first-ever, US-government-wide strategy for deterring terrorist networks. For this work, he received the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. He is a featured character in The New York Times bestselling book, Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign against Al Qaeda, by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker. He holds an MA and PhD in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. He lives with his wife and children in Georgetown. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewKroenig.
Andrew Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. He has taught at Columbia University since 1971. He served as director of the East Asian Institute at the School of International and Public Affairs from 1991 to 1995 and as Director of Graduate Studies in the Political Science Department since 1997. His teaching and research interests include Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. Nathan’s publications include Peking Politics, 1918–1923 (Berkeley 1976); Chinese Democracy (Knopf 1985); Popular Culture in Late Imperial China, coedited with David Johnson and Evelyn S. Rawski (Berkeley 1985); Human Rights in Contemporary China, with R. Randle Edwards and Louis Henkin (Columbia 1986); China’s Crisis (Columbia 1990); The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress: China’s Search for Security, with Robert S. Ross (Norton 1997); China’s Transition (Columbia 1997); The Tiananmen Papers, edited with Perry Link (Public Affairs 2001); and Negotiating Culture and Human Rights: Beyond Universalism and Relativism, coedited with Lynda S. Bell and Ilan Peleg (Columbia 2001). His articles have appeared in World Politics, Daedalus, The China Quarterly, Journal of Democracy, Asian Survey, and elsewhere. Nathan’s current research involves collaborative survey-based studies of political culture and political participation in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Asian societies. Nathan was chair of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch, Asia (1995–2000) and continues to serve on this committee and on the board of Human Rights in China. He is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Democracy, The China Quarterly, The Journal of Contemporary China, and China Information, among others. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the Association for Asian Studies, and the American Political Science Association. He does frequent interviews for the print and electronic media, has advised on several film documentaries on China, has consulted for business and government, and has published essays and op-eds in the New Republic, the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere. A native New Yorker, Dr. Nathan received his degrees from Harvard University: a BA in history in 1963, an MA in East Asian regional studies in 1965, and a PhD in political science in 1971. He taught at the University of Michigan from 1970 to 1971. He has held a Guggenheim fellowship as well as fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and others. He has directed four National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars.