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The Improbable War: China, The United States and Logic of Great Power Conflict

Overview


The Improbable War explains why conflict between the USA and China cannot be ruled out. In 1914 war between the Great Powers was considered unlikely, yet it happened. We learn only from history, and popular though the First World War analogy is, the lessons we draw from its outbreak are usually mistaken. Among these errors is the tendency to over-estimate human rationality.

All major conflicts of the past 300 years have been about the norms and rules of the international ...

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Overview


The Improbable War explains why conflict between the USA and China cannot be ruled out. In 1914 war between the Great Powers was considered unlikely, yet it happened. We learn only from history, and popular though the First World War analogy is, the lessons we draw from its outbreak are usually mistaken. Among these errors is the tendency to over-estimate human rationality.

All major conflicts of the past 300 years have been about the norms and rules of the international system. In China and the US the world confronts two 'exceptional' powers whose values differ markedly, with China bidding to challenge the current order. The 'Thucydidean Trap' - when a conservative status quo power confronts a rising new one - may also play its part in precipitating hostilities. To avoid stumbling into an avoidable war both Beijing and Washington need a coherent strategy, which neither of them has.

History also reveals that war evolves continually. The next global conflict is likely to be played out in cyberspace and outer space and like all previous wars it will have devastating consequences. Such a war between the United States and China may seem improbable, but it is all too possible, which is why we need to discuss it now.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Provides an exceptionally clear and succinct discussion of what may well be the most important question of our age: does war between major states have a future, and, if so, what will it be like?" -- Martin van Creveld, author of The Culture of War and The Changing Face of War: Lessons of Combat from the Marne to Iraq


"Christopher Coker has put forward a challenging argument: not that conflict between the US and China is inevitable, but that it is possible, and that both sides will have to sharpen their understanding of one other to avoid it. Coker draws richly on history, philosophy, and international relations theory to make his case. This is a highly stimulating account by a major thinker on one of the most important geopolitical questions of our time." -- Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the Institute for Chinese Studies, Oxford University, and author of China's War With Japan, 1937-1945


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199396276
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2015
  • Pages: 256

Meet the Author

Christopher Coker is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Barbarous Philosophers: Reflections on the Nature of War from Heraclitus to Heisenberg; Warrior Geeks; and Men At War: What Fiction Tells Us About Conflict, From The Iliad to Catch-22, all of which are published by Hurst.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Historical Analogies and the logic of history

2. Dominant Conflicts and the logic of Great Power conflict

3. Strategic Narratives and the logic of strategy

4. War (and its protean logic)

5. A Dangerous Place

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