Accession Number:



Understanding the Complexity of a Rising China

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report,05 Jul 2015,26 May 2016

Corporate Author:

US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Global politics is a complex system with endless variable factors and agents. Such complexity requires a holistic understanding of the structure, which demands a pluralistic application of theory. Dominant rationalist international relations IR theories seem inadequate on their own to explain the roles, functions, and interactions of all relevant agents in todays strategic environment. These theories do not account well for the temporal and interdependent nature of global politics across the breadth of political, economic, security, and social systems. The combination of these systems constitutes the basis for an increasingly complex world. These challenges are occurring on multiple levels across the spectrum of power and give credence to the assertion that traditional IR theories are insufficient on their own to account for the dynamism reflected in global politics of the 21st Century. Utilizing a pluralistic theoretical lens applied to a case study of a rising China, it proved reductionist to separate the parts of the system with no appreciation for the interdependent nature of those parts. Traditional approaches sought to assert control over variables that are resistant to control and interactions that produce unforeseen events. In isolation, these theories were not adaptive nor holistic in their approach. A pluralistic view of global politics sought to overcome those shortcomings. The application of complexity theory enabled synthesis of competing IR theories. Armed with this more nuanced conceptualization of global politics, operational artists and strategic planners can better account for the whole of the interdependent relationships among all relevant agents and populations of agents within the complex adaptive system that constitutes global politics. This is crucial for those seeking to anticipate possible futures and ensure maximum efficacy in the development of adaptive plans and policies.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement: