Live Blogging, China & the US; Destined for War

Forum on Geopolitics talk by Professor Graham Allison. He is a renowned Harvard Professor introducing his book “Destined for War”; Can America & China escape Thucydides’s Trap.

(1.) what is the big Idea

* is China rising or risen?

* is war inevitable

* Impact of China’s ruse on a rule US & international order

* where do we stand today

* what is the big Challenge?

(2.) the Big Idea is Thucydides’s Trap. The dangerous dynamics when a rising Power collides with the established power.

*as China realises it’s own dream to “make China great again”; it is displacing the US from its accustomed position at the top of the pecking order.

*how can War come about between the two; something the 1950’s Korean War, where a Third party’s actions draws in the Great Power.

(3.) Is War Inevitable? An emphatic NO! (He writs this 7 times in the book).

* the Strategic Rational for the US-China relationship has collapsed! The T Rivalry is infecting every aspect ion it relations.

*what is the Big Challenge? to find a path to escape Thucydides’s Trap is to “create a new form of great power relations.”

(4.) Thucydides’s is the father if history. It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.

(5.) China 1978 – 90% of Chinese lived below extreme poverty (less than 2USD a day).

Today (2014) that figure is 1%! 0 by 2020 / 800mn people have seen their lives lifted up out of abject poverty.

(6.) Who is rebalancing whom? Study commission by Senator McCain during President Obama’s Pivot to Asia.

* 2004 – 2014 – 2024

China ppp 5,760 – 18,222 – 35,596

US ppp 12,275 – 25,500 (2024)


(7.) China in Asia in 2017. China is now the dominant trading partner (more than US) in India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, ANZAC, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia.

(8.) WW1 – 25mm Dead

He quotes the beautiful poppies poem “In Flanders Field.”

How did an assassination of an Archduke, that didn’t make the Front page of the London newspapers, cause such a massive war?

Usually it neither the Ruling Power or the Rising Power initiates War.

(9.) 16 cases in History where there is a Thucydides’s Trap. 12 cases ended in War; 4 did not. 2 of those cases are post WW2. The other two exceptions late 15th century in Iberia (Spain displaced Portugal) and the other is the earlier 20th century US displaced UK.

Lord Salisbury said that Britain could only bear the humiliation about a Rising US and if that they had only supported the South in the Civil War; there would have been 2/3 countries in the US rather than just the 1.

* JFK lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis; the most dangerous moment in post WW2 history. He believed there was a 1 in 3 chance that it would end in a nuclear exchange that would kill hundreds of millions of people.

He and his brother Bobby, who were Catholics, used to discuss what they would say in the Day of Judgement if such an eventuality had come to pass.

Interesting JFK (later articulated incandescently by Ronald Reagan) argued that a nuclear war could never be won and there his mission was to prevent it at all costs.

So to design a world “safe for diversity” a world for an Evil Empire (the Soviets) and the “Free World” (led by the US). There would have been to compromises all around.

He said this in June 1963; nuclear powers must avoid confrontations where they are forced to choose between a humiliating retreat or a nuclear exchange.

* Sung Dynasty in 1005 AD were trying to deal with a Mongolian tribe, the Liao. After War the Song concluded that they could not defeat the Liao. They agreed with them in a treaty called “Rivalry Partners”; ruthless rivals in some arenas, partners in others. Song ageee to pay economic tribute to the Liao, who agreed in turn to buy things from China.

100 years of peace followed this; heralding a “Chinese Golden Era.”

(10.) Co-Opetition between Apple and Samsung

Apple and Samsung are huge corporate rivals but Apple is also one of Samsung’s biggest clients.

3million Views

Questions – I may stop blogging now.

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Mitchell Porter
Mitchell Porter
5 years ago

The Song-Liao entente sounds more relevant to the relationship between China and Russia, than the relationship between China and America.

Milan Todorovic
Milan Todorovic
5 years ago

Good overview and very appropriate for the current political moment. Just a side comment – it is almost unknown that Thucydides was a Thracian i.e. ethically Serb. Although Athenian his sympathies in this war were on Spartan side. This needs longer elaboration, maybe some other time, momentarily just trespassing and sending regards to Lithuanian guy/girl.

5 years ago

“China 1978 – 90% of Chinese lived below extreme poverty (less than 2USD a day).

Today (2014) that figure is 1%! 0 by 2020 / 800mn people have seen their lives lifted up out of abject poverty.”

This is really incredible. Brownistani countries need to figure out how to follow suit.

5 years ago

Amrika championed the doctrine of free trade when it suited Amreeki interests, now that mighty Cheen tiger is waking up again, Amrika is quaking in its boots.

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