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Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide's Trap?



Graham Allison, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

Date and Time

June 7, 2017 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


CISAC Central Conference Room
Encina Hall, 2nd Floor
616 Serra St
Stanford, CA 94305

This is a special social science seminar. Please note that the talk will start at 2:30PM.

About the Event: In this book talk, Professor Graham Allison argues that China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants. Behind this is what Allison refers to as Thucydides’s Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a hegemon. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them. Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries ‘great again,’ the seventeenth case looks grim. Unless China is willing to scale back its ambitions or Washington can accept becoming number two in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could soon escalate into all-out war (excerpt from Following Professor Allison’s talk, Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, will comment on this new book.

About the Speaker: Graham Allison is Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. As "Founding Dean" of the modern Kennedy School, under his leadership, from 1977 to 1989, a small, undefined program grew twenty-fold to become a major professional school of public policy and government. Dr Allison has served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy and Plans under President Clinton, where he coordinated DOD strategy and policy towards Russia, Ukraine, and the other states of the former Soviet Union. He has been awarded the Department of Defense's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, twice: first by Secretary Cap Weinberger and second by Secretary William J. Perry. He served as a member of the Defense Policy Board for Secretaries Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Aspin, Perry and Cohen. Dr. Allison's first book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971), was released in an updated and revised second edition (1999) and ranks among the all-time bestsellers with more than 450,000 copies in print. His latest book (2013), Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States and the World (co-authored with Robert Blackwill), has been a bestseller in the US and abroad.  His previous book, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, is now in its third printing and was selected by the New York Times as one of the "100 most notable books of 2004."  His forthcoming book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, will be published in May 2017.