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.
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. Twelve of 16 cases in which this occurred in the past 500 years ended violently.
If Hollywood were producing a movie about China and the US on a path to war, central casting could find no better lead for Team America than Donald Trump. Is China serious about replacing the U.S. as the dominant power in Asia in the foreseeable future? Could Americans accept becoming No. 2? How will Trump’s vow to “Make America Great Again” impact this epic rivalry? Could a trade conflict or accidental collision in the South China Sea cascade into war? Is war between Washington and Beijing inevitable?
To answer these provocative questions, please join Graham Allison, Niall Ferguson, Samantha Power, and Arne Westad for a JFK Jr. Forum at 6:00 pm on March 22nd. The Forum event, held on the first floor of the Littauer Building, is entitled Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? This event is open to the public.