13D’s Asia Conference in Hong Kong April 2018
Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?
A panel discussion with Dr Graham Allison on the major geopolitical issue of the 21st century. The event will be hosted by Ronnie Chan, Chairman Emeritus of the Asia Society—HK and Kiril Sokoloff Chairman and Founder of 13D Global Strategy & Research. Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School. He was the founding dean of the Kennedy School and former director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Relations there. For the last four years under Graham’s direction, the Belfer Center was voted the best university-affiliated think tank in the world.
Thucydides’s Trap describes how a rising power can threaten the supremacy of an existing power. It is this very Trap that caused war between Athens and Sparta, resulting in the end of Greek civilization. As Henry Kissinger writes on the Trap: “I can only hope that the US-China relationship becomes the fifth case to resolve itself peacefully, rather than the thirteenth to result in war.”
“The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another big player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.”
- Lee Kuan Yew
In 1980, China’s economy was only a tenth the size of the U.S. economy. By 2040, Allison reckons it could be three times larger. Being overtaken by a rival who shares common values—such as Britain grudgingly watching an upstart America surpass its power but largely preserve its cultural, religious, and political beliefs—is one thing. It would be quite another to be surpassed by an adversary whose values are so strikingly different.
Stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how rising and ruling powers have kept the peace in the past—and what painful steps the U.S. and China can and must take to avoid disaster.