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.
About the Author
Graham Allison is director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the best-selling author of Lee Kuan Yew, Nuclear Terrorism, and Essence of Decision. Founding dean of the Kennedy School of Government, he has advised the secretaries of defense under Reagan, Clinton, and Obama.
'Graham Allison has been a source of inspiration for me as a student and diplomat. As with Essence of Decision, Destined for War again provides us with his penetrating insights into global politics in the 21st century and beyond.' -Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations;'Graham Allison is one of the keenest observers of international affairs around. He consistently brings his deep understanding of history's currents to today's most difficult challenges and makes our toughest foreign policy dilemmas accessible to experts and everyday citizens alike. That's why I regularly sought his counsel both as a senator and as vice president. In Destined for War, Allison lays out one of the defining challenges of our time-managing the critical relationship between China and the United States.' -Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States;'Can the US avoid confrontation with China? That is the geopolitical question of our age. In most cases, Thucydides was right: when a new power arises in the world, it results in a clash with the dominant power. This important and fascinating book extracts lessons for how we can avoid such a confrontation.' -Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators;'One of the most insightful and thought-provoking books I have ever read on the most important relationship in the world: the US and China. If Graham Allison is right-and I think he is-China and the US must heed the lessons in this superb study in order to build a strategic relationship that avoids a war which neither side would win.' -General (Ret.) David Petraeus, Chairman of the KKR Global Institute, former Director of the CIA, and former Commander of US Central Command;'Thucydides's Trap identifies a cardinal challenge to world order: the impact of a rising power on a ruling power. I read the book with great interest. I can only hope that the US-China relationship becomes the fifth case to resolve itself peacefully, rather than the 13th to result in war.' -Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State;'A provocative thesis on one of today's most pressing foreign policy issues and a page turner of the first order, Destined for War is a must read. Professor Allison writes with the propulsive narrative drive appropriate for such an immediate and danger-fraught topic. I can only hope that all senior policy experts read this timely book to prevent our country from falling into the trap Professor Allison so ably warns us against.' -Christopher Reich, bestselling author of Invasion of Privacy;'Do China and America want war? No. Might they be compelled into conflict by severe structural stress? Yes. Thankfully, Allison charts an essential course to avoid a catastrophic collision. Destined for War will be studied and debated for decades.' -Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia;'An important new book.' -Financial Times;'Graham Allison has written a gripping book that decision-makers and citizens alike must read, digest, and act upon.' -Samantha Power;'You can bet that China's leaders will read Allison's warnings about Thucydides's Trap. I only wish I could be as sure about America's leaders. But every informed citizen should buy a copy.' -Niall Ferguson -'For policymakers, scholars, and citizens on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, Destined for War is essential reading.' -Ash Carter;'Graham Allison has written the most important foreign policy book of our time.' -Sandy Winnefeld;'Graham Allison is the Paul Revere of the nuclear age. In his brilliant book, Allison provides us with a heart stopping look into a future that may end as abruptly as the past began.' -William Cohen;'Essential, even indispensable reading for every diplomat-and financier or businessman - that contemplates China and its relations with the world.' -Kurt Campbell -' Destined for War is a must-read for anyone concerned about US-China relations. A gifted combination of scholarship with truly accessible writing.' -Amitai Etzioni;'Reading Destined for War and drawing from its lessons could help to save the lives of millions of people.' -Klaus Schwab;'If any book can stop a world war, it is this one. is gripping book is a must read for policy makers in both nations as well as the general public.' -Sam Nunn;'Surely another classic in the making, Destined for War is a brilliant example of 'thinking in time,' which - as the author shows - is against us.' -Brendan Simms, author of Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy