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

Wednesday, 29 November, 2017 - 17:30
Blavatnik School of Government, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG

When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, the most likely outcome is war. Twelve of 16 cases in which this occurred in the past 500 years ended violently. 

Today, an irresistible rising China is on course to collide with an immovable America. The likely result of this competition was identified by the great historian Thucydides, who wrote: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

But the point of Graham Allison's latest book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? (Scribe, 2017), is not to predict the future, but to prevent it. Escaping Thucydides’s Trap is not just a theoretical possibility. In four of the 16 cases, including three from the 20th century, imaginative statecraft averted war.

Can Washington and Beijing steer their ships of state through today’s treacherous shoals? Only if they learn and apply the lessons of history.

Join Graham Allison as he discusses Destined for War and poses hard questions for two proud nations. He asks if China is serious about replacing the US as the dominant power in Asia in the foreseeable future, if Americans could accept becoming No.2, and whether war between Washington and Beijing is inevitable.

This event is free and open to all. To attend, please register here.

About the author

Graham Allison was Director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs from 1995 until July 2017. Allison is a leading analyst of U.S. national security and defence policy with a special interest in nuclear weapons, terrorism, and decision-making. As Assistant Secretary of Defense in the first Clinton Administration, Dr. Allison received the Defense Department's highest civilian award, the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, for "reshaping relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to reduce the former Soviet nuclear arsenal." This resulted in the safe return of more than 12,000 tactical nuclear weapons from the former Soviet republics and the complete elimination of more than 4,000 strategic nuclear warheads previously targeted at the United States and left in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus when the Soviet Union disappeared.

The discussion will be chaired by Professor Todd Hall, Associate Professor of International Relations, Department of Politics and International Relations. 

The event is co-hosted with the Department of Politics and International Relations and the University of Oxford China Centre.