Reviews

NYT

"Graham Allison’s Destined for War makes his arguments through historical case studies that illuminate the pressure toward military confrontation when a rising power challenges a dominant one...[Allison's] wide-ranging, erudite case studies...span human history. "

Judith Shapiro, author of China’s Environmental Challenges | Read full review

Kirkus star

"A pertinent study of the relationship between the United States and China... A timely, reasoned treatise by a keen observer and historian."

Kirkus (Starred Review) | Read full review

Wall Street Journal

"In Destined for War, a brief but far-reaching book in which potted history is incisively deployed, Graham Allison explores how America and China may be on a collision course...One of the many strengths of Destined for War is the restoration of the late Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” theory, disparaged in the mid-1990s but subliminally gaining force by the day."

—Robert Kaplan, author of Asia’s Cauldron | Read full review

Bloomberg View

"Before settling in for pleasurable summer books, read Graham Allison's Destined for War. A warning label: It's going to scare the hell out of you... [Allison is] a first-class academic with the instincts of a first-rate politician. He brings to the "Thucydides's Trap" an impressive sweep of history and geopolitical and military knowledge."

—Albert Hunt, Bloomberg View columnist | Read full review

Cipher Brief

"Allison's scholarship pulls historic examples forward vividly and efficiently, and as he gets closer to our time, he enriches the narrative with a detailed account of America's emergence at the beginning of the 20th century…Allison raises critical issues with a sense of both drama and history. His prose should alarm serious American thinkers."

—Michael Hayden, former director of CIA and NSA | Read full review

Financial Times

"As Xi Jinping prepares to meet Donald Trump in Florida next week, his staff might do well to get hold of an advance copy of an important new book by Graham Allison on US-Chinese relations — which bears the doom-laden title Destined for War. The Chinese president is already familiar with the work of Allison, a professor of government at Harvard. In November 2013, I attended a meeting with President Xi in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where he told a group of western visitors: “We must all work together to avoid Thucydides’s trap.”

—Gideon Rachman, Financial Times | Read full review

The Times (UK)

Destined for War “sounds a useful, even important warning call… Stability and predictability are key factors in averting conflict. America needs a coherent strategy, rather than making sporadic lunges onto the world stage with either rhetoric or cruise missiles.”

—Max Hastings, historian and author of The Secret War | Read full review

Asia Times

"The most comprehensive book to ever tackle the question of not only whether a US-China war is possible, but what steps Washington and Beijing can take to avoid such a calamity .... Allison’s efforts in Destined for War will surely be praised, and for good reasons .... Allison’s ideas flow easily, no matter how frightening they are .... We are finally about to have a real public debate about the very distinct possibility of a war between the US and China."

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at The Center for the National Interest | Read full review

 

The Conversation

"Allison’s book makes a fascinating and worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the nature of power as a function of the nation-state. Through his analysis of the four case studies in which war was avoided, Allison gives us “twelve clues for peace”, including practical examples of how Thucydides’s Trap was avoided. These include insights into the nature of leadership, how power is enacted, the opportunities and entrapments of alliances, and much more."

—Jack Bowers, Senior Lecturer at Australian National University | Read full review

Lowy Institute

“Allison’s book is essential reading both for the content and its impact. It is already being circulated in the White House and politburo, and will no doubt be added to political science reading lists in universities around the globe...Allison calls Obama’s Asia pivot 'using an extra strength aspirin to treat cancer'. With this book, we might finally be shifting to chemotherapy.”

—Crispin Rovere, author of The Trump Phenomenon | Read full review

The Economist

"Mr Allison does not say that war between China and the United States is inevitable, but he thinks it “more likely than not”. This alarming conclusion is shared by many in Washington, where Mr Allison’s book is causing a stir...China and America could blunder into war in several ways, argues Mr Allison...With Donald Trump in the White House, Mr Allison worries that even a trade war might turn into a shooting war."

The Economist | Read full review

The Spectator

Destined for War "tells the extraordinary story of China’s transformation since Deng abandoned Mao’s catastrophic Stalinism, and considers whether the story will end in war between China and America...New leaders must build institutions for global cooperation that can transcend Thucydides’ dynamics...I hope people like Jeff Bezos read this timely book and resolve to build the political forces we need."

—Dominic Cummings, British political strategist | Read full review

American Conservative

"Is China’s rise a threat to American interests? If so, how can America counter it?  These questions form the background of Graham Allison’s essential book. The phrase 'Thucydides's Trap' is of Allison’s invention, coined to hammer home that the dilemmas America faces with China are not at all novel but actually formed the subject of the very first history ever written...In Allison’s hands, it becomes a paradigm case for understanding the dynamics of power transitions and how those transitions can lead to wars that leave both parties worse off than if they had come to terms."

—Noah Millman, senior editor of The American Conservative | Read full review

 


Press Highlights

Regional powers being drawn into China’s orbit
Troy Bramston | The Australian | July 18, 2017

  • "American policymakers must come to terms with the fact that US influence, even among close allies like Australia, is declining relative to Chinese influence in the region, and the US cannot count on the unwavering support of other Asian states in its disputes with China,” Graham Allison tells The Australian's Troy Bramston in a recent interview. "When it comes to the China-Australia relationship, there is a realization that China’s largesse is altering the international balance of power in a way that causes even long-time US allies to tilt away from the US.”

What Politicos Are Reading This Summer
Politico | July 16, 2017

  • Politico "asked the most interesting people we know to tell us what they’re reading this summer," and Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia,  lists Destined for War, which she calls "Probably the one recent book you need to read to wrap your head around our current dynamic with China."

Is the US headed for a showdown with North Korea?
Niall Ferguson | The Boston Globe | July 10, 2017

  • "Since the election of Donald Trump, the probability of a Sino-American conflict has soared...the biggest flashpoint is without question North Korea — which brings me back to Thucydides and Graham Allison’s “Destined for War,” this summer’s must-read book in both Washington and Beijing."

The Risks and Rewards of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War
S.N. Jaffe | War on the Rocks | July 6, 2017

  • "Insofar as Graham Allison is exhorting the United States and China to avoid gratuitous strategic errors, his advice, I would suggest, is soundly Thucydidean. Decision-makers in both countries would do well to heed him. For what is lost by caution — or, to use a favored Greek term, moderation — and a corresponding aliveness to the danger of clashing interests in the shadow of broader shifts in the balance of power? In great power politics, an ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure, for if the plague to be cured is war, the disease has already progressed too far."

Graham Allison on "Charlie Rose": North Korea, China, and the US
"Charlie Rose" | July 5, 2017

  • Graham Allison and Anne Gearan of The Washington Post join guest host Jeff Glor for a discussion of North Korea's new intercontinental ballistic missile test.

Prominent Scholars Debate US-China Relations and Thucydides Trap
Natalie Liu | Voice of America | July 3, 2017

  • In an interview with VOA, Graham Allison says the notion that China "just wants to be another responsible stakeholder, maintaining the order we are part of," is wishful thinking.  "China wants to be predominant in Asia, as Teddy Roosevelt wanted to be in our hemisphere," said Allison, referring to the U.S. president who proclaimed in 1904 that the United States had an exclusive right to settle international disputes in the Western Hemisphere.

Graham Allison on "Office Hours"
Aroop Mukharji | Harvard Kennedy School | June 30, 2017

  • In the newest episode of "Office Hours," Graham Allison talks with Aroop Mukharji about his new book Destined for War. Allison explains the big idea that is Thucydides’s Trap, what might spark war between America and China, and what he has in common with Queen Elizabeth II.

Is war between a rising China and a dominant America inevitable? A thought experiment.
David Ignatius | Washington Post | June 28, 2017

  • Let’s imagine a Chinese “applied history” project, similar to the one at Harvard’s Belfer Center that helped spawn Professor Graham Allison’s widely discussed book Destined for War Allison’s historical analysis led him to posit a “Thucydides Trap” and the danger (if not inevitability) of war between a rising China and a dominant America, like the ancient conflict between Athens and Sparta chronicled described by the Greek historian Thucydides. A study by the Belfer Center’s Applied History Project identified 16 similar “rising versus ruling” cases over the past 500 years, 12 of which resulted in war. What would the Chinese say about the lessons of past interactions with the West?

Why I'm building a network of 10,000 elite scholars who understand China
Steve Schwarzman | CNBC | June 23, 2017

  • As China continues to expand its economic and international influence, this lack of cross-cultural understanding could have tragic consequences. Harvard Professor Graham Allison has articulated an idea known as the "Thucydides Trap." It states that, through history, the rise of an emerging power very often creates fear and anxiety among established powers, which can (in the worst-case scenario) lead to war. Schwarzman Scholars was designed to help defuse those tensions and create a more peaceful world.

Thucydides's Trap does not have to be inevitable
Chen Weihua | China Daily | June 23, 2017

  • Harvard University professor Graham Allison had a question for me when I chatted with him last week about his new book: Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?  He found that some Chinese are uncomfortable with the word "inevitable" in his description of the Thucydides's Trap.  "They say 'war is not inevitable'. I say, 'Correct, correct, it's not inevitable'," says Allison.

Why the White House Is Reading Greek History
Michael Crowley | Politico | June 21, 2017

  • The Trump White House isn’t known as a hot spot for Ivy League intellectuals. But last month, a Harvard academic slipped into the White House complex for an unusual meeting. Graham Allison, an avuncular foreign policy thinker who served under Reagan and Clinton, was paying a visit to the Trump National Security Council, where he briefed a group of staffers on one of history’s most studied conflicts—a brutal war waged nearly 2,500 years ago, one whose lessons still resonate, even in the administration of a president who doesn’t like to read.

What Are the Odds of a U.S.-China War?
Andrew Browne | Wall Street Journal | June 20, 2017

  • Are the U.S. and China headed for war? That has been the recent hot question in China circles, spurred by a deluge of books that handicap the chances. Graham Allison, the Harvard professor who popularized the term “Thucydides's Trap” to describe the risk of conflict when a rising power challenges the incumbent, isn’t optimistic.

Foreign Policy Book Talk: Are the United States and China Destined for War?
Ben Pauker, Christine Wormuth, and David Wertime | Foreign Policy's "Editor's Roundtable" | June 20, 2017

  • With history as a guide, Graham Allison joins FP's signature podcast to look at China’s chest-thumping at home and in the South China Sea, and how this new expansionism threatens the United States. Neither country wants hostilities, but what are the flashpoints that could lead to conflict?  Could China’s geopolitical leverage defang North Korea? Or could Pyongyang set China and the United States on a course for war? It’s no secret that Xi Jinping isn’t a fan of Kim Jong Un’s regime, but could Donald Trump’s loud mouth lead to missile launches? Or is there a road to peace and stability?

Interview on CBC's "The Current"
Anna Maria Tremonti | Canadian Broadcasting Corporation | June 14, 2017

  • In an interview on "The Current," Canada's most listened-to radio program, host Anna Maria Tremonti spoke to Graham Allison about  possible routes to a Sino-American war. "In these [war] games which have been played over and over, even though people know they don't want to get to the end of the game in which Americans and Chinese are killing each other, the process turns out to be a lot easier than you would suspect," Allison told Tremonti.

Jake Sullivan's 2017 "Owen Harries Lecture"
Jake Sullivan | Lowy Institute for International Policy | June 13, 2017

  • In a lecture delivered to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, Jake Sullivan noted: "The great Harvard political scientist Graham Allison just came out with a book called Thucydides’s Trap. Thucydides first observed, millennia ago, that it was the rise of Athens, and the anxiety it caused Sparta, that led to the Peloponnesian War.   Allison studied the last 16 cases where an established power had to deal with a rising power. 12 of those cases resulted in war. So without careful management, there are a lot of structural forces pulling the two countries toward confrontation."

Interview on The Katie Couric Podcast
June 8, 2017

  • On The Katie Couric Podcast, Graham Allison delves into the challenges associated with China's rising power, the diplomatic implications of the Paris Climate Accord, and why the US seems caught in a slow-motion Cuban Missile Crisis with North Korea.

Mattis Fails to Ease Asia's Concerns About Trump
Marc Champion | Bloomberg | June 4, 2017

  • The ultimate risk is of a future conflict between the U.S. and China, the “Thucydides's Trap” that Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull raised in his speech, in a reference to the tendency of ruling and rising powers to end up at war.  When Graham Allison -- the Harvard professor who coined the term -- finished writing his book “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” Trump had yet to be elected president, Allison said in a phone interview from Washington. The book was published Wednesday.  As a result, the U.S. had yet to raise the stakes with North Korea, or warned the leadership in Beijing that the only way to avoid a U.S. military build-up in the region was for China to solve the peninsula’s nuclear problem. North Korea is one of several potential triggers for an eventual, unintended China-U.S. conflict that Allison lays out in his book.

Trump Hands the Chinese a Gift: The Chance for Global Leadership
David Sanger and Jane Perlez | New York Times | June 2, 2017

  • In an interview with the NYT following President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, Graham Allison said: “What the Paris accord represented, in a fractured world, was finally some international consensus, led by two big polluters, China and the United States, on a common course of action. What you’d expect us to do is sustain our position by maintaining our most important relationship around the world and address what the citizens of our allies consider their most important problems: economic growth and an environment that sustains their children and grandchildren. Instead, we are absenting the field.”

Interview on On Point: "Are We Headed For War With China?"
Sacha Pfeiffer |  WBUR  | May 30, 2017

  • Is China a bigger danger to the US than ISIS or Russia? Graham Allison, in conversation with On Point's Sascha Pfeiffer and The Economist's David Rennie, argues that a catastrophic clash between the US and China is much more likely than most Americans realize. A US-China war is not inevitable, Allison says, but they will have to work hard to avoid one.

Interview on The Leonard Lopate Show: "What Ancient Greece Tells Us About China Relations"
Leonard Lopate |  WNYC  | May 30, 2017

  • Graham Allison joins WNYC's Leonard Lopate to discuss Destined for War and detail which parallels in history best explain the relationship between the US and China. 

Interview on "The Hugh Hewitt Show"
Hugh Hewitt | May 30, 2017

  • Hugh Hewitt interviews Graham Allison about his new book, "ominous signals on the Korean Peninsula," and US foreign policy towards China.

Interview on All Things Considered: "Destined For War" Explores How To Avoid Unnecessary Future Conflicts
Robert Siegel | National Public Radio | May 29, 2017

  • Speaking to All Things Considered host Robert Siegel on Memorial Day, Graham Allison discusses honoring the fallen by avoiding unnecessary wars.

The Cipher Brief: Graham Allison on Why the U.S. & China are 'Destined for War'
Suzanne Kelly | The Cipher Brief | May 28, 2017

  • With rising tensions between the US and China, The Cipher Brief’s CEO and Publisher Suzanne Kelly speaks with Graham Allison, about his new book and US-China relations.

Interview with Macleans: "Is war between America and China inevitable?"
Brian Bethune | Macleans | May 23, 2017

  • In an interview with Canadian current affairs magazine Macleans, Graham Allison talks Thucydides's Trap, Teddy Roosevelt, and the temptation for established powers to strike rising powers before it’s too late.

Facebook Live Chat with Ian Bremmer
May 22, 2017

  • Eurasia Group president and best-selling author Ian Bremmer sits down with Graham Allison to talk about Destined for War. "I can't think of a book I have read in recent times that I think more needed to be written than this one," said Bremmer.

US Senator Dan Sullivan: Allison's book Destined for War is "a must read"
C-SPAN | May 8, 2017

  • In a speech on the floor of the US Senate, Sen. Sullivan discussed "the most significant long-term challenge we face as a country: the rise of China and the threat it poses to the post-World War II international order." Sullivan continued: "I have had the privilege over the last few weeks to review [Allison's] book, and I believe it will be a 'must read' for those who care about the long-term security and economic interests of the United States."

From Ancient Greece, Lessons On The Risk Of A Modern, Accidental War
Greg Myre | National Public Radio | May 3, 2017

  • NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre profiles Thucydides's Trap on "Morning Edition," reporting that "history is littered with examples of countries stumbling into unwanted wars that quickly spiral out of control."

Making complicated things simple
Heather Lee | Harvard Law Today | May 1, 2017

  • During a conversation with the Harvard Association for Law and Business (HALB), Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder of the Blackstone Group — the largest alternative asset management firm in the world — cited the Thucydides's Trap as a motivating factor for creating the Schwarzman Scholars program. “If the scholars developed into thought leaders, they would become a layer of protection against this Thucydides's Trap,” Schwarzman noted.

North Korea defies Trump
Michael Crowley | Politico | April 28, 2017

  • “You could easily end up with a civil war on the inside,” Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said in a Thursday talk at at the Center for the National Interest to discuss US-China war scenarios from Destined for War. “We’ll take our side and the Chinese will take their side, and that’s a scenario where the two could start fighting.” Allison added that a military official in the region had told him Kim’s overthrow or demise would touch off a “vertical track meet” between U.S. and Chinese forces racing to secure the country’s nuclear weapons.

What America and China must do to head off a clash
The Economist | April 20, 2017

  • "Disorder under heaven," an Economist special report on China, features "a much-discussed recent study led by Graham Allison of Harvard university highlighted the dangers looming when a rising power challenges a ruling one, as when Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece."

A Grand Strategy for Trump
Richard Burt | The National Interest | April 13, 2017

  • As Graham Allison notes, it is imperative for the United States and China to avoid an unpremeditated war. The emerging strategic relationship between China and the United States has all the characteristics of the “Thucydides's Trap,” in which a rising power challenges the dominance of a status-quo power. Indeed, Allison’s historical research indicates that more often than not it leads to war, an outcome that is far from being in the interest of either power.

Former UN Ambassador Samantha Power and Harvard Professors Explain How to Avoid War with China
Teddy Landis | Huffington Post | April 11, 2017

  • "As the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power has seen a lot. So when she calls a book “gasp-worthy,” we should pay attention...For Ambassador Power, the most chilling part of Allison’s book was its final chapter, which examines the domestic politics of both countries. Allison is specifically concerned with how American politics will respond to this change. As the Trump Administration threatens to step out of certain world affairs like climate change, it creates room for China to come in and become the leader."

WATCH: Graham Allison discusses Thucydides's Trap on Fareed Zakaria GPS
CNN | April 9, 2017


Is China challenging the United States for global leadership?
The Economist | April 1, 2017

  • "As Donald Trump prepares to welcome Xi Jinping next week for the two men’s first face-to-face encounter, both countries are reassessing their place in the world ... At the UN in Geneva, Xi talked about a “hegemon imposing its will on others” andwarned America about a “Thucydides trap”—the disaster that befell ancient Greece when the incumbent power, Sparta, failed to accommodate the rising one, Athens."

Xi-Trump meeting to set tone for China-U.S. ties
Zhu Junqing | Xinhua | March 31, 2017

  • In a commentary published by China's official Xinhua news agency, Zhu Junqing warns about the danger presented by Thucydides's Trap whiledescribing how the April 6-7 summit between Trump and Xi creates "great opportunities" after the "twists and turns over the past months" in US-China relations.

Are We on the Verge of a Full-On Trade War With China?
Foreign Policy "Editor's Roundtable" podcast | March 16, 2017

  • David Rothkopf, Rosa Brooks, and Colin Kahl take on the big questions of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to Asia. China was once a cheerleader for Trump, but that could quickly change now that the president is singing a different tune. Rothkopf shares his takeaways from a recent conversation with Destined for War author Graham Allison (8:50), including a revelation about what White House chief strategist Steve Bannon thinks about Thucydides's Trap.

Don’t let Beijing push us around, warns ‘frustrated’ former ambassador to China
Simon Denyer | The Washington Post | February 26, 2017

  • “The United States needs to stop getting pushed around by China and work out a long-term strategy to deal with the country’s rise, former U.S. ambassador Max Baucus said last week...Baucus is proud to have visited all of China’s mainland provinces during his time there. He said he worked hard to prevent the two nations from falling into what has been called the Thucydides trap, a theory that an established power feels threatened by a rising power, leading to a rivalry that often descends into war.”

Xi Jinping: "Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind"
Speech to the United Nations Office, Geneva | January 19, 2017

  • "Countries should foster partnerships based on dialogue, non-confrontation and non-alliance. Major powers should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, keep their differences under control and build a new model of relations featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. As long as we maintain communication and treat each other with sincerity, the “Thucydides Trap” can be avoided. Big countries should treat smaller ones as equals instead of acting as a hegemon imposing their will on others."