Why The Risk of World War Is Rising

Can We Avoid the “Thucydides Trap” with China?

Top economic advisers are forecasting war and unrest.

They give the following reasons for their forecast:

  • Countries start wars to distract their populations from lousy economies
  • Currency and trade wars end up turning into shooting wars
  • The U.S. is still seeking to secure oil supplies, and the U.S. doesn’t like any country to leave the dollar standard

Additionally, the American policy of using the military to contain China’s growing economic influence – and of considering economic rivalry to be a basis for war – is creating a tinderbox.

As the New York Times noted in 2011:

For a superpower, dealing with the fast rise of a rich, brash competitor has always been an iffy thing.

Just ask … Thucydides, the Athenian historian whose tome on the Peloponnesian War has ruined many a college freshman’s weekend. The line they had to remember for the test was his conclusion: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.

So while no official would dare say so publicly as President Hu Jintao bounced from the White House to meetings with business leaders to factories in Chicago last week, his visit, from both sides’ points of view, was all about managing China’s rise and defusing the fears that it triggers. Both Mr. Hu and President Obama seemed desperate to avoid what Graham Allison of Harvard University has labeled “the Thucydides Trap” – that deadly combination of calculation and emotion that, over the years, can turn healthy rivalry into antagonism or worse.

Indeed, Allison writes:

The defining question about global order in the decades ahead will be: can China and the US escape Thucydides’s trap?

China is certainly aware of this potential dynamic for world war … and is eager to avoid it.    As Xinua noted last July:

Greek historian Thucydides described the situation between Athens and Sparta as a combination of “rise” and “fear,” which inevitably resulted in war about 2,400 years ago. Over the past 500 years, when a rising power has challenged a ruling power, war has often followed, reinforcing the concept of “The Thucydides Trap.”

In the 21st century, however, China and the U.S. could and must avoid falling into this trap, especially against the backdrop of ever-deepening economic globalization and interdependence.


“The Thucydides Trap” offers a worthy caution, but it is not a tragedy that can not be avoided.

The 21st century will not necessarily mark the rise of China alongside the fall of the U.S., rather, through joint efforts, the two sides can see the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, U.S. recovery and a developing world, simultaneously.

And the China Post made a similar point last June.

Obviously, the dispute between China and Japan over oil-rich islands – with the U.S. backing Japan – is a complicated one. Indeed, Japan is threatening to seize another 280 islands whose claim is disputed.

Given that China passed Japan as the world’s second biggest economy in 2010, Thucydides’s trap could very well apply to Japan’s fear and hatred of China’s economic growth.

And China’s threat to “take back” an island occupied by another close U.S. ally – the Philippines – could be another potential flashpoint in Chinese-U.S. relations.

It seems like the U.S. and China are drifting towards war over the long-term, as proxy disputes with Japan, the Philippines and other countries cannot remain cool forever without accident or incident.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail on all sides …

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  • Washington76

    JANUARY 08, 2014 Robert Kelly

    Convention of States

    One of the more frequent objections to a Convention of States goes something like this: “Article V says Congress ‘calls’ the convention when it receives 34 applications. Doesn’t this mean Congress controls the convention and chooses the delegates?”

    In a word, no.


  • agglebert

    why are you excluding Russia in all of this? they are the main threat, not china. sure china will join in, but if you continue to ignore Russia you are doing your readers a major disservice. if you have been citing the ruskies in previous blogs I apologize. I just stumbled on it today.

    • Bad Santa

      Please do not take this personally, but your comment sounds like a comment from a person who just arrived straight from the 60s when every average Joe in the USA was completely brainwashed by its Government and truly believed the red ruskie commies are the biggest threat in the whole wide universe. I am definitely not an expert in world politics, but the biggest threat to the world peace was and still is the biggest Israeli colony – the good old US of A.

      • Capt Jack Obvious

        Please do take this personally because Russia still has technology that out does China, and keeps up with America.

        • Muhammad Abbass

          Pity this realisation is not enough to stop idiots in the USA from also pushing likely war with Russia. Fortunately both Russia and China are both disinclined to war at least and they have by far the more competent governments at this time so the maniacs and misfits, puppets and perverts we call ‘Leaders’ in the West are having to go it alone in their push for Armageddon.

        • Bad Santa

          Oh, I am sure they have superior technology, but that’s not what I was refering to. I was refering to the your calling them a ‘threat’, as big bear is not threatening anyone on this planet like illegal n*ogger Obozo (and with a handful exceptions, most of the US presidents), Hitler’s daughter Merkel, pig fornicator Cameron, french presidents (all of them), overgew Netantyahu and his south pagan cousins from the tent of Saud, just to name a few. And yes, one more thing. I definitely won’t take it personally, any objections to that?

    • BillyCobbett

      Mitt Romney and the Neo-Con warmongers are full of sh*t.

  • China has successfully tested its first hypersonic missile delivery vehicle capable of penetrating US missile defense system – http://rt.com/news/supersonic-china-delivery-vehicle-554/

    • Joe Vvc

      This is just the beginning … the tens of Engineers are massive pool of talents.
      They score high in education .

  • Joe Vvc

    There is no turning back for China … and China is not just China. China plus the rest of the world’s Chinese is China now that communism/capitalism is blurring.

    China is one country US should not even think not try to take on .No Other race IN THE WORLD even come close . That is why China is growing at the speed of a real Chinese as you can see the entire South East Asia and East Asia are mainly economically Chinese. Overnight the likes of Japan will have no business worldwide.

    China goes anywhere does anything are always ten times bigger … US has one this China will have ten .. will be the final position.

    US should not think China is like Iran that can stand any insults of threats. China will go on do lots of trade and not war.

  • terry

    Why does everybody think China is so powerful, Japan crushed in them in WW2, and before that the British kicked there ass, the China Marines had them in check. China can barley take care of China, they are a giant land of peasants. They use slave labor, they are way behind our military in everything, Everything they make is junk, and they are ripe for a revolution. I have no respect for the them or there military.

    • mouse

      its probably a bit different now considering they have a fairly substantial nuclear weapons stockpile, this time around they could vaporize all of japan in a blink, of course since MAD is the universal policy between superpowers(who must truly be mad to enshrine such a policy) the rest of the world would also get vaped and thatd be the end of our short story

      • DNA(splicer)

        That’s what people don’t get. Everyone says America is gonna get nuked but they don’t get that we will nuke back and our allies will nuke and then the next guy will do it and so on and everyone dies. Do they really think America doesn’t have nukes spread around the world just in case America gets nuked ther e are silos and subs and other places ready to launch back but people don’t get it.

        • SamSaraWanderer

          dude, my fellow american…..it’s called hubris. look it up. and be quiet—you aren’t helping. the more you type/talk, the worse you/we sound here in the states. go read a book.

          • DNA(splicer)

            Im well read i read every day, articles, newspaper, science articles, im in college for biotech and im building a tech start up. I am very intelligenet im aware that iq isnt the determinant for intelligence but my iq is 120 i like to shove it in peoples faces. Yes i have hubris, so does everyone else. Im aware of it and i can factor it into my response or ignore it if and when the time requires it.

            If one country nukes america, the whole world will get nuked. This isnt me trying to sound bad ass. It happened in the world war. Allies are obligated to defend and respond acordingly to their allies who are being attacked. Someone nukes america and we will nuke them and our allies will nuke them. Then their allies will nuke us until everyone on earth with a nuke nukes the entire planet to hell.

          • SamSaraWanderer

            oh dear god. just. shut. up. even when it comes to making your own case for yourself, you manage to make it even worse instead.

          • DNA(splicer)

            For one speaking of hubris you are the one who needs a dose of humility. Like i said i know i have hubris but most like yourself dont see it within themselves and boast of this grand humility within them, however in reality they are rotting inside. You think yourself better than I, yet all you have done is bring forth arrogance with your reaponses.

            Ad hominems are used by those who find it hard to argue without insults, good day.

            It gives me a laugh to see people with low intelligence argue.

          • DNA(splicer)

            We have nukes in subs aroubd the world ready to launch at any time, we have silos with people at the “button ready to launch, we have air craft ready to lauch, we have warships who alsobhave nukes ready to launch. We have bases aroubd thw world with long range weaponry. Do you really think russia can stop a full head nuclear attack. Air defemce systems arent perfect and a wall of nuclear warheads isnt going to be stoped since some are detonated above ground before they even hit the ground in order to create more range and garaunteed destruction.

          • SamSaraWanderer

            K. Not enough time or motivation to continue with you. I’m certain your life is a brilliant showcase of achievement. Enjoy.

    • Muhammad Abbass

      Terry, Terry, Terry….

      Just because they keep your head from deflating like a balloon, rocks do not a brain make.

      • DNA(splicer)

        We wouldn’t lose America has the greatest nuclear stock pile on the planet and there are more guns in America than there are people the way I see it America will win or take the world with it. That’s how I was trained and raised if I can’t win then I’m taking every soul with me. There will be no victors is I am not one of them. And most Americans think this way.

        • Muhammad Abbass

          Yes you will most definitely lose. Even if it counted, which it does not, the USA does not have the biggest nuclear stockpile, Russia does. Russia also has much better and faster delivery systems. All those guns in America don’t make you more secure, they merely give an indication of what things will look like as your collapsing and fragmented society hits the dirt. You are led by cretins and they are incapable of even rescuing your nation let alone the Empire which is weighing you down like lead boots, they most assuredly will go down with your failed nation long before they manage to cause the rest of the planet to go down. You’re being reduced to brittle bones without you’ve yet even managed to stir up anyone enough to justify using weapons. When you go there, you will be like baby seals. Baby seals getting clubbed by Russians amd no doubt a lot of others who will suddenly show that they only ever called you allies out of fear. When your turn comes, you’ll be looking for rocks to hide under. As for how you think, yes we know you are psychopaths but thanks for confirming it. Trouble with psychos like you is they are never able to realise they are predictable and easily overcome after all.

          • DNA(splicer)

            When the time comes to it we have a legion of soldiers ready to do the dirty work and if our politicians can’t do it then the military will take the power from them and do it themselves in a war crisis military leaders can do this and have done this in many times throughout human history even to the extent of killing their nonmilitary leaders.

            America has the largest nuke stockpile and the best delivery systems we have bombers that can travel faster than sound and beyond even so people think they are ufos. Anyways when it comes to its if America falls we have silos to nuke this damn planet to kingdom come and take every damn human with us to hell. If we are gonna lose then everyone will lose. U don’t need to believe me, I don’t care if u do I am just telling u what I have seen as I served in the American military and I and many of those who I served with agreed that if America falls then we should take the whole world with us if we can’t win then no one on earth should win either.

          • Muhammad Abbass

            Hollywood has made such clowns of you honestly. You do not have the largest nuclear stockpile, Russia does and theirs are better with better delivery systems. Much faster than yours and unlike you they have awesome anti-missile defense systems and missiles capable of beating anything you have to stop them. You are also a bunch of pussies compared to the Russians and always will be so stop being a presumptuous twit.

          • DNA(splicer)

            We have more ACTIVE NUKES than russia, they have more but most of them are waiting to be dismantle since they are old, OLD=not able to be launched.

            M.A.D mutual assured distruction, russia nukes us we nuke them before those missles hit us we will send some as well. North dakota has some i know thats, subs around the world have a few nukes ready to launch as well even warships. Our allies have an obligation to defend their allies so russias allies will attack us and our allies will attack russia amd its allies. Meaning everyone will pobably die. M.A.D. is a nuclear deterant meaning no on us stupidbenough to destroy everyone on earth because what benefit will that do to anyone.

            There are around 16,000 nukes and around 5,700active belong to america and 5,400active belong to russia. We only need about 1000 or less nukes to fuck the world up.

            Russia may be crazy but not that crazy to kill humanity.

            Plus i like russia, putin is better than obama anyways. Russia and america need each other even if they dont see eye to eye, china too maybe india.

    • bella

      well you have no idea you must be an american or american ass liking english piece of shit only countrys in the world that depend on others for help to go into war and only loosers to use the means of nuclear to save you asses but i think this time it will be difrent with russia i just feel sorry for ukranians cause america cant help them they never help any one just like in korea iraq yugoslavia they start problems they cant finish just gutless piece of shits Bustards that have an ilusion thinking they can control the world why dont the fight russia alone instead the need of Europe 1 SIMPLE ANSWER GUTLEESS USLESS IDIOTS and no iam not russian neither muslim

  • No doubt, war does distract the people from their economic problems, but German (1938) was doing economically well when it was going to war with other countries.

    • Muhammad Abbass

      Way to put the cart before the horse. Germany was cornered into war by others, when they were economically strong. The whole point of that war was the destruction of the rising German economic and technological dominance which was in competition to the US one in control of ‘they who must not be named’ having thrown off the yoke of those same sources of money and influence after decades of disastrous predation by them upon the German economy and nation.

  • Wulfrano Ruiz Sainz

    You mean to say that a barrel of oil is worth 15 Radioactive zombies walking around?

    • Muhammad Abbass

      I’m guessing that if asked, the bozos stirring it would probably like both if they can get it.

  • Muhammad Abbass

    Hoping for “cooler heads” to prevail out of a selection of current leaders and the systems behind them and thus their likely heirs when it comes to the US led Western nations is like hoping for a record Tuna when you go fishing in the local creek.

    • ben fribley

      Muhammad Abbass: Most appreciative of your twee about criminal hillary, and Dhamasa. I really need that therapy and have gotten the herb…How many grams are you taking per day,and how long have you been taking it…Thanks so very much for your effort. please reply to ….bfrib@pwr-net.coop

  • Lewis

    I strongly doubt there’ll be another “World War” (by the proper definition) or war with the Russians, despite the media obsession with the prospect and the ruckus over Ukraine, but I definitely see a Second Pacific War on the horizon, except this time against China rather than Japan. China aren’t building up and modernizing their military just for the hell of it..

    China has it’s eyes on the first and second island chains which contain multiple oil/resource-rich islands which have contested sovereignty with countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, and they’re keen to regain territories lost during the Opium Wars with Britain.

  • The rise of Athens was not a unique event. A similar dynamic caused the Punic Wars. There was an overwhelming military power (Sparta / Rome) discovering a successful commercial power (Athens / Carthage) within its hegemonic area.

    I think the west’s problem is the unvoluntary nature of its alliances whereas the Africans, South Americans and Asians are consensual and more willingly co-operative. We often say we don’t have allies we have interests. Now we shall discover if neglecting the other chap was a wise move.

  • BigSky2

    and THAT my friends is why the liberal-communists here in Washington WANT the US citizenry to be disarmed! They (China) want to just walk in and take!!!