The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
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.