Thucydides Trap : U.S. v. China

Thucydides Trap is the theory where a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war. For half a century the world believed the United States and Russia (U.S.S.R) were destined to fight and end the world with nuclear war. Now China is rapidly moving into the position of the U.S.A’s rival.

Unlike Russia However the situation with China is already quite muddled. China holds 1.3 trillion dollars worth of U.S. debt, and trade between the two countries is unevenly balanced towards China making a much larger amounts of exports to the U.S.A. than it is importing. China an the U.S. are already linked together in a very fragile relationship. War would clearly be the worst outcome for the two nations, the defeat of either one would cause the surviving nation’s economy to face a massive crisis.  What could cause war between the two nations? China calling for the U.S. to pay it’s debt would certainly be a possibility, but a more likely scenario is both sides moving to gather what’s left of the worlds resources. While a Fallout scenario with both sides escalating to nuclear war is not very likely, a situation similar to Cold War era Proxy wars would be more likely. Small nations where natural resources are abundant, such as oil, would certainly face increasing pressure from both directions and may in some cases see direct conflict.

It certainly isn’t impossible to avoid war between the U.S. and China, however it will take lots of diplomatic action and interference from the global community to keep the situation as peaceful as possible for as long as possible.


3 thoughts on “Thucydides Trap : U.S. v. China

  1. I totally agree with the statement. What I want to add is that China is now trying hard to expand their territories in Asia, for example, they built up for creating Great wall of sand(1) because it has been said there were oils potentially. That appears to be one of the reasons that Japan tries to start works on collective security to deal with China’s territory expansion. Therefore, it would be assumed that the war will start if the situation in East Asia becomes worse, although the probability seems to be low. As this blog post stated, diplomatic actions or bargains will be taken a lot to compromise and avoid the war.


  2. The United States economy is perpetually in such a crisis, I hope we can find a president who can get this together. You would think for a world superpower we would be able to handle this


  3. Chinese foreign policy has a great influence on Japan as well. As the author of this blog implies, we need a hard-line diplomatic policy on China, partly because, as the Prospect Theory argues, once China holds some resources like oil or marine channel in the South China Sea to the Pacific, China won’t relinquish them and this will make it very complicated for other countries to restore the ‘status quo’. We must group for the reference point for a compromoise, but tolerance may be a fatal mistake in the long run.


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