Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide's Trap?
China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants.
The reason is Thucydides's Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained- 'It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.' Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them.
Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America, and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries 'great again', the seventeenth case looks grim. Unless China is willing to scale back its ambitions or Washington can accept becoming number two in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could soon escalate into all-out war.
In Destined for War, the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains why Thucydides's Trap is the best lens for understanding U.S.-China relations in the twenty-first century. Through uncanny historical parallels and war scenarios, he shows how close we are to the unthinkable. Yet, stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how clashing powers have kept the peace in the past - and what painful steps the United States and China must take to avoid disaster today.
Graham Allison has been a source of inspiration for me as a student and diplomat. As with Essence of Decision, Destined for War again provides us with his penetrating insights into global politics in the 21st century and beyond.
- Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations
'Graham Allison is one of the keenest observers of international affairs around. He consistently brings his deep understanding of history's currents to today's most difficult challenges and makes our toughest foreign policy dilemmas accessible to experts and everyday citizens alike. That's why I regularly sought his counsel both as a senator and as vice president. In Destined for War, Allison lays out one of the defining challenges of our time-managing the critical relationship between China and the United States.'
- Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States
'Thucydides's Trap identifies a cardinal challenge to world order- the impact of a rising power on a ruling power. I read the book with great interest. I can only hope that the US-China relationship becomes the fifth case to resolve itself peacefully, rather than the 13th to result in war.'
- Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State
'Do China and America want war? No. Might they be compelled into conflict by severe structural stress? Yes. Thankfully, Allison charts an essential course to avoid a catastrophic collision. Destined for Warwill be studied and debated for decades.'
- Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia
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