The U.S.-China contest (II): Risk of a thucydides trap (?)

James C. Hsiung

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    I put a question mark after "Thucydides Trap" in the chapter's title to register my skepticism about the supposed similarity between the current China-U.S. face-off and the Athens-Sparta contest preceding the Peloponnesian War. There are, to me, at least three substantive reasons why the two situations are totally incompatible: (a) China is not a first-time upstart, but is on its second rise after a century and a half of decline, during which it learned that the world needed social justice and safeguards against the encroachments by the powerful against the weak, as discussed in Chapter 6. (b) The system of states in which China and the United States find themselves today, wrapped in a relationship that Richard Rosecrance depicts as "vulnerability interdependence," is qualitatively different from the ancient Greek system of states where such interdependence was unknown between Athens and Sparta. (c) China's clout thus far is derived predominantly from its surging economic expansion; but its military might is not up to a level that would instill the sort of "fear" that the rising Athens did in Sparta, as Thucydides observed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationSeries on Contemporary China
    PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
    Number of pages11
    StatePublished - 2018

    Publication series

    NameSeries on Contemporary China
    ISSN (Print)1793-0847

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Anthropology
    • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
    • History
    • Political Science and International Relations
    • Sociology and Political Science


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