Destined for war: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s trap? by Graham Allison

Destined for war: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s trap? by Graham Allison. Lately, I’ve been reading about current global conflicts, starting with “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” by John Mearsheimer and “Silent Invasion” by Hamilton Clive. Both authors are academics in the US and Australia, respectively, making their books well-crafted and thoroughly researched, supported by numerous references for a deeper understanding of the conflicts involving Israel and China.

Similarly, given that Graham Allison is a professor at Harvard University, one can anticipate that his book, “Destined for War,” is of high quality and well-researched – and indeed, it is.

The book explores the potential for conflict between the USA and China, relying not only on economic and geopolitical reasons commonly covered in the news but also on historical insights. The title refers to the ancient historian Thucydides, who chronicled a war between the city-states of Sparta and Athens over 25 centuries ago.

Back then, Sparta was a powerful state with a formidable army and navy. As Athens strengthened its military capabilities, its rulers became more confident. Initially, this growth didn’t threaten Sparta, but eventually, Sparta realized that Athens was gaining control over a significant part of Greece. Athens, fueled by victories against Persia, grew more arrogant, demanding more respect. A war ensued, lasting 30 years, and finally, Sparta overcame Athens, but at a great cost. Sparta never fully recovered and began to decline.

This conflict from over 2500 years ago serves as a warning of what might happen if the US and China fail to resolve their issues. Examining the distant past allows us to look further into the future.

Apart from the clashes between Sparta and Athens, history shows us many instances where a powerful nation feels threatened by a rising one, leading to conflicts that often result in war.

My favorite part of the book focuses on “Britain Vs. Germany.” The author carefully details how, in the late 19th century, Britain, boasting the most powerful navy globally, became uneasy about Germany’s growing strength following its unification. In the early 1900s, Germany displayed signs of significant industrial and military ambitions, causing increasing concern in Britain. By 1910, Germany’s economy had surpassed Britain’s global manufacturing output, and its advancements in science and technology outpaced both Britain and the US combined in the first 14 years of the 20th century.

A key factor boosting Germany’s confidence and intensifying Britain’s worries was the formidable battle fleet they were constructing. Until then, Britain’s Navy was a symbol of global power. While Germany may not have aimed to surpass Britain, the mere thought concerned Britain deeply. As Germany grew more self-assured, they formed alliances with other nations, like Japan, and provoked others, such as France, by attempting to build a naval base in the Atlantic near Morocco, a French possession at the time.

Winston Churchill, leading the Royal Navy, tried to persuade Germany to ease or halt the naval race, but Kaiser Wilhelm reacted unfavorably. The Kaiser ordered the construction of new battleships and prepared for an eventual war, which eventually began in August 1914

Today, China’s economy, measured by GDP (PPP), is now bigger than that of the US. Even though America is the birthplace of the car, today China not only produces more cars but also has the largest car market. China has a more extensive train system compared to the US. In 2015, Tsinghua University topped MIT in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, becoming the number-one university globally for engineering. Across many areas, like industry and trade, China has outpaced the USA, and tensions between these two nations seem to grow each year. In terms of military strength, there are reports suggesting that in the next decade, China could gain several advantages in the battlefield. Looking back in history, there are signs indicating that these two countries might end up in a war in the not-so-distant future.

error: Content is protected !!
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap