The 'rise of China' is seen by some observers as a precursor of inevitable hegemonic competition in Fast Asia. At the very least, it seems likely that China's influence in East Asia will grow at the expense of the United States. Whether this will eventually amount to a form of 'hegemonic transition' is far less clear. It is, therefore, an opportune moment to consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of China and the US in East Asia. This paper Suggests that the nature of hegemonic competition and transition is more uncertain and complex than some of the most influential theoretical understandings of hegemony would have Lis believe.