China's emergence begs a fresh look at power in world affairs - more precisely, at how the spread of freedom and the integration of the global economy, due to the information revolution, are affecting the nature, concentration, and purpose of power. Perhaps such a look could improve the odds of responding wisely to China's rise. Suppose that democracies are not only disinclined toward aggression, as is widely accepted, but also more able to build national power, by virtue of their economic and political openness. Imagine, further, that joining the existing democratic powers in a community of interests and values is the surest path any nation can take to growth, success, and power. If in fact, the information revolution has such effects, the prospect of a mighty but hostile China would be remote. Increased Chinese capabilities would be accompanied by restraint, not increased belligerence. This essay examines the relationship of intentions and capabilities--more precisely, of openness and power--in the information age. China is the case in point; but the query is a general one. Its hypothesis is that although power remains important in world politics, globalization has transformed its character, correlates, and consequences: Power now depends on freedom.
McNair Paper No. 59