Rising Powers

Recent attention in both the scholarly and national security communities highlight the dangers to the current American international order posed by certain rising challengers, with consequences for liberal values like human rights and democracy, an erosion in the stability of international trade, and even the potential for major power war. 

The rules of international conduct that have come to govern international political practices, from the laws of armed conflict to expected behaviors surrounding nuclear deterrence, are under threat. 

Scholars will explore the destabilizing potential of such rising powers such as China, India, Brazil, or a politically united Europe, by examining lessons of past historical transitions and exploring the origins of rising powers’ strength in their internal politics and economics. 

Through taking a more holistic view of rising challengers by an interdisciplinary group of well-known scholar presentations in four panels, the conference will:

  • Examine the history surrounding the rise of past global challengers, particularly the British decline and the Cold War.
  • Identify the sources of power in population and development
  • Apply these lessons to the contemporary international political landscape
  • Outline the national security consequences of these lessons, generating informed debates about the future of American grand strategy

Partners for this conference include the Adams Center, Center for Leadership & Ethics, Dean’s Office, Department of International Studies, and the Department of History.

Any registration questions should be sent to Kim Connolly, Assistant Director for Programs and Conferences at VMI's Center for Leadership and Ethics. connollykv@vmi.edu



Monday, November 15, 2021

8 - 8:45 AM Registration
Breakfast (continental)
8:45 - 9 AM Opening Remarks
9 - 10:45 AM PANEL 1: Historical Examination of Rising Powers
10:45 - 11 AM BREAK
11 AM - 12:45 PM PANEL 2: Sources of Power in Demography and Development
12:45 - 2 PM LUNCH
2 - 3:45 PM PANEL 3: Rising Powers in the Twentieth Century
3:45 - 4 PM BREAK
4 - 5:30 PM PANEL 4: American Grand Strategy: Looking Forward
5:30 - 5:45 PM Closing Remarks


Registration Is Open

Registration for this exciting new conference is now open, please see our registration form and secure your spot today!

Rising Powers Online Registration Form

 Panel 1: Historical Examinations of Rising Powers

Time: 9:00 - 10:45 a.m.

Moderator: Paul Levengood, President, George C. Marshall Foundation 


  • William R. Thompson (Indiana University) – “Rising Powers and the Etiology of Systemic Wars”  
  • Scott Silverstone (United States Military Academy) – “What ‘Thucydides Trap’? Challenging Conventional Interpretations of Preventative War and the Ancient Greeks” 
  • Barton Myers (Washington and Lee University) - “Colonel Emory Upton's Military Policy of the United States and the Origins of Pre-World War One U.S. Army Reform” 
  • Will Walldorf (Wake Forest University) – “How Strategic Narratives Shape U.S. Grand Strategy toward Rising Powers” 


 Panel 2: Sources of Power in Demography and Development

Time: 11:00 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Moderator: Robert Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor in Political Economy, Washington and Lee University 

  • Mark Haas (Duquesne University) – “Population Aging and Grand Strategy”  
  • Jennifer Sciubba (Center for Strategic and International Security) and Manjari Chatterjee Miller (Boston University) – “Region on the Rise: The Role of Population in Power, Peace, and Prosperity in South Asia” 
  • Ketian Zhang (George Mason University) – “Patriots of Diverse Characteristics: Deconstructing China’s Anti-Japan Protests” 
  • Thomas J. Volgy, Kelly Gordell, and Rachel Van Nostrand (University of Arizona) – “Rising Powers: Which Powers are Moving toward the Major Power Club and are They Challengers to the Liberal World Order?” 



 Panel 3: Rising Powers in the Twentieth Century

Time: 2:00 - 3:45 p.m.

Moderator: COL Bradley Coleman, VMI Department of History and Director, John A. Adams ‘71 Center for Military History and Strategic Analysis 

  • Michelle Benson, Chhandosi Roy, Chris Newton (University at Buffalo), and Jacek Kugler (Claremont Graduate University) – “Power, Satisfaction, and War” 
  • Jacek Kugler (Claremont Graduate University) and Ron Tammen (Portland State University)  – “Russia: From Global Challenger to Vassal Status”  
  • Evan Montgomery (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)  - “Stepping Into or Out of the Hegemon’s Shadow? Alignment Decisions of Rising Regional Powers.”  
  • Steve Chan (University of Colorado) – “Power Shift, Problem Shift, and Policy Shift: Americans' Reactions to China's Rise” 

 Panel 4: American Grand Strategy: Looking Forward

Time: 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.

Moderator: COL Spencer Bakich, VMI Department of International Studies and Political Science 

  • Kyle M. Lascurettes (Lewis and Clark College) - “Should I Stay or Should I Go?  How the Rise of China Affects America’s Commitment to the Liberal International Order”  
  • Haider Khan (University of Denver) - “China as a 21st Century Rising Power and Possibilities of a Novel Multiplex IR: Prospects for Overcoming Thucydides’s Trap in Light of Neoclassical Realism in a Scientific Realist Framework ” 
  • Scott Gates (University of Oslo and Peace Research Institute Oslo)  – “Micro-Foundations of Great Power Rivalry: The Consequences of China’s Rise” 
  • Jon DiCicco (Middle Tennessee State University) – “Great Power Competition, Regional Orders, and Restraint: Peering over the Horizon" 


Event Location

Learn about Marshall Hall, home of the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics, and the main location for this conference:

Marshall Hall Facility

Area Information and Directions

About Virginia Military Institute

Virginia Military Institute is the nation’s oldest state-supported military college. VMI offers a rigorous co-ed undergraduate education with majors in engineering, science, liberal arts, and social sciences.

Conference activities will be held in Marshall Hall, home to VMI’s Center for Leadership and Ethics.  The facility is named in honor of Gen. George C. Marshall, VMI class of 1901, hailed by Winston Churchill as the “organizer of victory” for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II.

For handicapped accessibility or other assistance contact Derek Pinkham at 540-464-7582.

About Lexington and Rockbridge County

Lexington is a small town full of history and culture, as well as amenities for business travelers attending conferences and symposia. Information on all that Lexington has to offer, including lodging, may be found at the Lexington and Rockbridge Area Tourism site.

Lexington, Virginia  Ranks #5 in USA TODAY’s 2017 poll of “Best Southern Small Town” — and the only place in Virginia on the list.


Traveling North on I-81, exit at 188-B
Take exit 188-B (60 West) and proceed to Lexington (a couple of miles). Turn right on Main St (which is one way north at this point). Immediately move into the left lane. After two blocks you will be forced to turn left onto Jefferson St (one way south). Immediately move into the right lane and then turn right onto Letcher Avenue. Proceed on Letcher until you enter VMI.

Traveling South on I-81, exit at 195
Take exit 195 and turn right at the end of the exit ramp (11 South). Proceed south on 11 to Lexington (about 5 miles). Follow the signs to downtown Lexington (11 business . . . Main Street). Main Street will split and become Jefferson Street (one way south). Immediately turn right onto Letcher Avenue. Proceed on Letcher until you enter VMI.