Avoiding A Thucydides Trap in Sino-American Relations (…and Eight Reasons Why That Might Be Difficult)
Gregory Moore, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China
In 2015 Harvard’s Graham Allison wrote an evocative article discussing the “Thucydides Trap” in relations between China and the United States, highlighting the danger of war between a rising power and a reigning power in the international system. Can China and the United States avoid the Thucydides Trap as China rises? Allison’s study leads one to conclude that such is not likely. Highlighting the importance of a number of different/additional variables than Allison’s study focuses on, the analysis offered in this talk is not much more optimistic. It highlights eight reasons China and the US will find it difficult to avoid the Thucydides Trap: the bilateral strategic trust deficit, lack of agreement on the nature of the US pivot and US Indo-Pacific Strategy, recent trends in China’s maritime policies, disagreements over cyber security, the US-China trade row, security dynamics underlying China’s Anti-Access/Area Denial and Washington’s AirSea Battle strategies, recent trends in Sino-Russian strategic alignment, and Washington’s concerns about China’s increased defense spending and growing military capabilities. Dr. Moore argues that these eight factors will make it difficult to avoid a Sino-US conflict (hot or cold) in the coming decade, while leaving more room for the role of agency, or good diplomacy, than does Allison’s approach.
Gregory J. Moore (PhD University of Denver) is Head of the School of International Studies at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China, member of the (U.S.) National Committee on United States-China Relations and President-elect of the Association of Chinese Political Studies. He is the author of numerous articles on international relations, Chinese foreign policy and East Asian security issues, and is author/editor of North Korean Nuclear Operationality: Regional Security and Non-Proliferation (Johns Hopkins, 2014), author of Niebuhrian International Relations: The Ethics of Foreign Policymaking (Oxford University Press, forthcoming, March 2020), and is writing a book on Sino-American relations while on sabbatical as a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies during the fall of 2019.