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Zeno Leoni holds a BA in International Relations (University of Macerata), a MSC in Global Politics (Birkbeck College) and a PhD in International Political Economy (King’s College London). Each course was completed with a dissertation on US foreign policy.

While writing his PhD thesis on Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” he worked as Teaching Assistant in the departments of War Studies, Political Economy, European & International Studies, and Defence Studies.

Since September 2017 he has joined full time the Defence Studies Department, where he has contributed to launch the very first modules on China held at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

Indeed, since the end of his PhD, Zeno has studied, written and commented on the New Cold War between the US and China. In particular, he has been increasingly concerned with the wide-ranging ramifications of this relationship - for instance, growing tensions in UK-China relations, US-China competition Gulf, etc. He is currently writing a book titled American Grand Strategy from Obama to Trump: Imperialism after Bush and China’s Hegemonic Challenge (Palsgrave, NY).

Prior to academia, he was a political activist and professional news reporter in Italy.

Research Interests

  • Imperialism, Empires, Geopolitics
  • Crisis of the Liberal International Order
  • US-China & UK-China relations
  • US grand strategy
  • China’s grand strategy

In general, Zeno's research focuses on world order and hegemonic shifts, with a special interest in the hegemonic competition between US and China.

From a theoretical viewpoint, Zeno is interested in the relationship between the uneven geographical development of capitalism and the rise and fall of great powers. In his PhD thesis, he has sought to bridge Marxist theories of imperialism (intended as inter-state rivalries) and mainstream theories of International Relations (especially geopolitics).

From a conceptual and empirical viewpoint, Zeno is interested in the structural limits of the Liberal International Order, such as the intersection of economic and security interests. In particular, he explores this tension in US-China relations and UK-China relations.

Dr Leoni is part of the Nebrija University's Research Group on Security, Risks Management and Conflict and the International Team for the Study of Security - Verona (ITSS Verona).



  • Rising China (Higher Command and Staff Course)
  • International Security Studies (Advanced Command and Staff Course)
  • Airpower (Intermediate Offer Development, Royal Air Force)
  • International Political Economy (online)



  • American Grand Strategy from Obama to Trump: Imperialism after Bush and China’s Hegemonic Challenge (forthcoming, Palgrave).

Book chapters:

  • 'US-China competition in the MENA region', in Handbook of China relations with the Middle East (forthcoming, Routledge)

Policy papers:

  • Future Trends (Joint Chief of Staff, Italian Ministry of Defence)

Media Articles

  • Which world power has the strongest military? The Times & The Sunday Times, Jun 12, 2020
  • The end of the 'Golden Era'? What COVID-19 means for UK-China relations, King's College London, June 4, 2020.