Eikenberry: Thucydides Trap

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Flickr/White House - Pete Souza

Karl Eikenberry, a William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at CISAC and Shorenstein APARC Distinguished Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute, says we mustn’t assume that tensions between China, a rising power, and the United States, a status quo power, will lead to conflict, in American Review.

He says the Thucydides Trap, a term derived from the Athens-Sparta dynamic which eventually lead to conflict more than 2,400 years ago, would be largely misapplied if used to describe the current context of U.S.-China relations.

“While it is generally true that struggles between rising and status quo powers historically have led to war, the various cases of the past – and Athens-Sparta in particular – are quite different from each other and certainly from today’s rivalry between the United States and China,” Eikenberry writes.

While the future of U.S.-China relations is uncertain, and if mismanaged, could lead to conflict, analysts in both countries would be unwise to assume a re-enactment of the Peloponnesian War.

His essay can be found on American Review online. A Stanford Report news release on 20 August covered his essay.