Upstart: How China Became a Great Power

March 2024 No Comments

Speaker: Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro (Stanford University)

Date: 12 March 2024

Speaker Session Summary

China’s ascent as a formidable challenger to the United States, both economically and militarily, represents a significant shift from just a quarter-century ago. In her recent book, “Upstart: How China Became a Great Power,” Dr. Mastro delves into the rapid trajectory of China’s rise from global obscurity to great power status. Central to her analysis is China’s multifaceted strategy aimed at competing with the US across various domains. She describes China’s approach, which involves emulation of US practices, exploitation of American vulnerabilities, and the deployment of entrepreneurial tactics to gain a competitive edge. Notably, she underscores the importance of China’s strategic acumen in navigating its ascent while avoiding provoking reactions from the US that could potentially outmatch its capabilities. 

During her presentation, Dr. Mastro focuses on four key areas of competition: foreign policy, economics, military capability, and nuclear strategy. For instance, China’s military strategy mirrors its entrepreneurial ethos, as it seeks to develop an indigenous nuclear capability while also drawing inspiration from US modernization efforts. Furthermore, China’s strategic calculus exploits perceived weaknesses in US defense strategies, notably leveraging anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities in its regional theater. Dr. Mastro also sheds light on China’s approach to safeguarding its overseas interests, noting its divergence from the US model of establishing numerous foreign military installations.  

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials

Book: Upstart: How China Became a Great Power

Biography: Oriana Skylar Mastro is a Center Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Courtesy Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University where her research focuses on Chinese military and security policy, Asia-Pacific security issues, war termination, and coercive diplomacy. She was previously an assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University. Mastro continues to serve in the United States Air Force Reserve at Indo-Pacific Command. For her contributions to U.S. strategy in Asia, she won the Individual Reservist of the Year Award in 2016 (CGO) and 2022 (FGO). She has published widely, including in International Security, Security Studies, Foreign Affairs, Journal of Strategic Studies, The Washington Quarterly, the Economist and the New York Times. Her most recent book, Upstart: How China Became a Great Power (Oxford University Press, 2024), evaluates China’s approach to competition. Her book, The Costs of Conversation: Obstacles to Peace Talks in Wartime, (Cornell University Press, 2019), won the 2020 American Political Science Association International Security Section Best Book by an Untenured Faculty Member. She holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University. Her publications and other commentary can be found at and on twitter @osmastro.


Submit A Comment