Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?

Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?

by Graham Allison


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544935273
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 05/30/2017
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

GRAHAM ALLISON is director of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the best-selling author of LeeKuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World; Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe; and Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Founding dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, Dr. Allison has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and advised the secretaries of defense under every president from Reagan to Obama. He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction xi

Part 1 The Rise Of China

1 "The Biggest Player in the History of the World" 3

Part 2 Lessons From History

2 Athens vs. Sparta 27

3 Five Hundred Years 41

4 Britain vs. Germany 55

Part 3 A Gathering Storm

5 Imagine China Were Just Like Us 89

6 What Xi's China Wants 107

7 Clash of Civilizations 133

8 From Here to War 154

Part 4 Why War Is Not Inevitable

9 Twelve Clues for Peace 187

10 Where Do We Go from Here? 214

Conclusion 232

Acknowledgments 241

Appendix 1 Thucydides's Trap Case File 244

Appendix 2 Seven Straw Men 287

Notes 289

Index 349

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