Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (Hardcover)

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CHINA AND THE UNITED STATES ARE HEADING TOWARD A WAR NEITHER WANTS. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. 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.

In Destined for War, the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains why Thucydides’s Trap is the best lens for understanding U.S.-China relations in the twenty-first century. Through uncanny historical parallels and war scenarios, he shows how close we are to the unthinkable. Yet, stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how clashing powers have kept the peace in the past — and what painful steps the United States and China must take to avoid disaster today.

About the Author

GRAHAM ALLISON is director of Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the best-selling author of LeeKuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World; Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe; and Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Founding dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, Dr. Allison has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and advised the secretaries of defense under every president from Reagan to Obama. He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Praise For…


“Thucydides’s Trap identifies a cardinal challenge to world order: the impact of a rising power on a ruling power. I read the book with great interest. I can only hope that the US-China relationship becomes the fifth case to resolve itself peacefully, rather than the 13th to result in war.” — HENRY KISSINGER, former United States Secretary of State

“Graham Allison is one of the keenest observers of international affairs around. He consistently brings his deep understanding of history’s currents to today’s most difficult challenges and makes our toughest foreign policy dilemmas accessible to experts and everyday citizens alike. That’s why I regularly sought his counsel both as a senator and as vice president. In Destined for War, Allison lays out one of the defining challenges of our time — managing the critical relationship between China and the United States.” — JOE BIDEN, former Vice President of the United States

“One of the most insightful and thought-provoking books I have ever read on the most important relationship in the world: the US and China. If Graham Allison is right — and I think he is —China and the US must heed the lessons in this superb study in order to build a strategic relationship that avoids a war which neither side would win.” — GENERAL (RET.) DAVID PETRAEUS, Chairman of the KKR Global Institute, former Director of the CIA, and former Commander of US Central Command

“The Chinese superpower has arrived. Could America's failure to grasp this reality pull the United States and China into war? [Destined for War] argue[s] persuasively that adjusting to this global power shift will require great skill on both sides if conflagration is to be avoided... [Destined for War is full of] wide-ranging, erudite cases studies that span human history... [A] fine book.” — NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“This summer’s must-read book in both Washington and Beijing.” — NIALL FERGUSON, BOSTON GLOBE 

“Please read this book because it'll rattle you...[Allison is] a first-class academic with the instincts of a first-rate politician. He brings to the 'Thucydides Trap' an impressive sweep of history and geopolitical and military knowledge. Unlike some academics, he writes interestingly... Allison isn't a pessimist. He argues that with skillful statecraft and political sensitivity these two superpowers can avoid war.” — BLOOMBERG NEWS

“A brief but far-reaching book in which potted history is incisively deployed…Perhaps we can avoid war, Mr. Allison says, by negotiating a long peace with China.” — WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Allison raises critical issues with a sense of both drama and history. His prose should alarm serious American thinkers... and perhaps divert us from debates over backchannels to Russia, presidential tweets and the ghost wiretapping of Trump Towers. And if you want some serious strategic imagination, pay special attention to the last ten pages or so. Worth the read.” —MICHAEL HAYDEN, former Director of the CIA, in The Cipher Brief

“Can the US avoid confrontation with China? That is the geopolitical question of our age. In most cases, Thucydides was right: when a new power arises in the world, it results in a clash with the dominant power. This important and fascinating book extracts lessons for how we can avoid such a confrontation.” — WALTER ISAACSON, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators

“A hugely respected theorist and practitioner in the field of contemporary national security, Graham Allison is also a master of applied history. You can bet that China's leaders will read Allison's warnings about Thucydides's Trap. I only wish I could be as sure about America's leaders. But every informed citizen should buy a copy.” — NIALL FERGUSON, senior fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of The War of the World

“A provocative thesis on one of today's most pressing foreign policy issues and a page turner of the first order, Destined for War is a must read. Professor Allison writes with the propulsive narrative drive appropriate for such an immediate and danger fraught topic. I can only hope that all senior policy experts read this timely book to prevent our country from falling into the trap Professor Allison so ably warns us against.” — CHRISTOPHER REICH, bestselling author of Invasion of Privacy, The Patriots’ Club, and Numbered Account
“Do China and America want war? No. Might they be compelled into conflict by severe structural stress? Yes. Thankfully, Allison charts an essential course to avoid a catastrophic collision. Destined for War will be studied and debated for decades.” — KEVIN RUDD, former Prime Minister of Australia

“In Destined for War, Graham Allison has again done a great service. With an incisive review of the wars of yesterday and a deep understanding of today’s international politics, Allison has provided American and Chinese leaders not just with a stark warning about the consequences of falling into the Thucydides’s Trap, but also the insight to avoid it. For policymakers, scholars, and citizens on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, Destined for War is essential reading.”  — ASH CARTER, former U.S. Secretary of Defense

“Graham Allison is the Paul Revere of the nuclear age. He has been ringing the alarm for years trying to stir us from our slumber. In his brilliant book, Allison provides us with a heart stopping look into a future that may end as abruptly as the past began.”  — WILLIAM COHEN, former U.S. Secretary of Defense

“In dissecting — and suggesting ways to bend — the dangerous arc of the US-China relationship, Graham Allison has written the most important foreign policy book of our time. This book should immediately be read by our new president. Placing Destined for War atop every government organization’s reading list offers our generation of leaders the best hope for avoiding stumbling into Thucydides’s notorious trap.” — ADMIRAL (RET.) SANDY WINNEFELD, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“Drawing on a sweeping command of history and a keen ability to distill the essence of an argument, Graham Allison has provided the necessary guide for how to manage Sino-American relations into an uncertain future. Essential, even indispensable reading for every diplomat — and financier or businessman — that contemplates China and its relations with the world.” — KURT CAMPBELL, CEO of The Asia Group and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Destined for War is a must-read for anyone concerned about US-China relations, or peace. And by all who care about the ways US foreign policy is formed — and ought to be formed. A gifted combination of scholarship with truly accessible writing.” —  AMITAI ETZIONI, professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University and author of Avoiding War with China

“Reading Destined for War and drawing from its lessons could help to save the lives of millions of people.” — KLAUS SCHWAB, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum
“Steeped in history and propelled by one of the most transformative developments in modern times — the rise of China — Graham Allison has written a gripping book that decision-makers and citizens alike must read, digest, and act upon. Allison combines a historian’s depth of knowledge with a policymaker’s real world, practical understanding. He mines the recent and distant past to offer essential insights into the future — in so doing, changing the way we think about how America should act in the present.” — SAMANTHA POWER, former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem from Hell
“If any book can stop a world war, it is this one. Graham Allison makes a clear and compelling case that serious conflict between the United States and China is looming, but not inevitable.  This gripping book is a must read for policy makers in both nations as well as the general public.” — SAM NUNN, Co-Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and former U.S. Senator (1972-1996)

“Might Destined for War be the policy book of the year? When Xi Jinping declares that the story in Graham Allison’s book is serious enough to compel our attention, then we need to study the arguments in it. Deftly presented, clearly structured, and with a fine concluding exploration of the endless historical debate between great forces and contingency, Destined for War seems itself destined for much attention, argument and constant classroom use.” — PAUL KENNEDY, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

“Graham Allison is the quintessential scholar-practitioner. He has served at the highest levels of government and the academy, and is one of the principal protagonists of 'applied history' world-wide. His latest book brings historically-informed political science to bear on the preeminent strategic question of our age: whether the rise of China can unfold without major war. A work of reflection rather than prediction, its conclusions are nevertheless deeply disturbing. Surely another classic in the making, Destined for War is a brilliant example of 'thinking in time', which—as the author shows—is against us.” — BRENDAN SIMMS, author of Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy
“Graham Allison has been a source of inspiration for me as a student and diplomat. As with Essence of Decision, Destined for War again provides us with his penetrating insights into global politics in the 21st century and beyond.” — BAN KI-MOON, former Secretary General of the United Nations
“Managing our strategic rivalry with a rising China will be the number one challenge for US foreign policy in the decades ahead. The stakes are high. Historical precedents are ominous. Some think conflict is inevitable. Others dismiss that conclusion as simplistic. This seminal book provides the reader both with a fascinating excursion through history, and with the conceptual basis for thinking intelligently about an issue that, for better or worse, will profoundly affect the future of the United States.” — J. STAPLETON ROY, former U.S. Ambassador to China
“As Destined for War demonstrates, recognizing the Thucydidean stress between the US and China is far from appeasement. Rather, Graham Allison shows why it is the fundamental starting point for a successful American strategy to deal with the rise of Chinese power that both upholds our vital national interests and avoids war.” — ROBERT D. BLACKWILL, Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Ambassador to India
“Graham Allison, with his usual conceptual clarity, uses the “Thucydides’s Trap” to light up the big question of our day: how can the dominant power (the United States) avoid war with the rising power (China)? Allison provides historical perspective, while presenting the U.S. perspective that he knows from the inside and the Chinese perspective that he has studied with uncommon depth.” — EZRA VOGEL, author of Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China
“Read this book. You cannot get a better introduction to the dilemmas the US faces in its China policy or to the methods of applied history in understanding current affairs.” — ARNE WESTAD, author of Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750
“It isn’t often that a book comes along that should be mandatory reading for every member of Congress, Cabinet member and, for that matter, any senior governmental official with a connection to foreign policy and national security. But Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? is such a book.” — CHARLES E. COOK, JR., Editor of The Cook Political Report
Destined for War is a ‘must read’ for those who care about the long-term security and economic interests of the United States.” — DAN SULLIVAN, U.S. Senator (R-AK)
“Allison’s book is essential reading both for the content and its impact. It is already being circulated in the White House and politburo, and will no doubt be added to political science reading lists in universities around the globe... Allison calls Obama’s Asia pivot 'using an extra strength aspirin to treat cancer.' With this book, we might finally be shifting to chemotherapy.” — LOWY INSTITUTE
“A pertinent study of the relationship between the United States and China... A timely, reasoned treatise by a keen observer and historian.” — KIRKUS (Starred Review)
“As Xi Jinping prepares to meet Donald Trump in Florida next week, his staff might do well to get hold of an advance copy of an important new book by Graham Allison on US-Chinese relations — which bears the doom-laden title Destined for War. The Chinese president is already familiar with the work of Allison, a professor of government at Harvard. In November 2013, I attended a meeting with President Xi in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where he told a group of western visitors: ‘We must all work together to avoid Thucydides’s trap.’” — GIDEON RACHMAN, Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist of the FINANCIAL TIMES
“The Trump White House isn’t known as a hot spot for Ivy League intellectuals. But last month, a Harvard academic slipped into the White House complex for an unusual meeting. Graham Allison, an avuncular foreign policy thinker who served under Reagan and Clinton, was paying a visit to the Trump National Security Council, where he briefed a group of staffers on one of history’s most studied conflicts — a brutal war waged nearly 2,500 years ago, one whose lessons still resonate, even in the administration of a president who doesn’t like to read.” — POLITICO
“Mr. Allison does not say that war between China and the United States is inevitable, but he thinks it “more likely than not.” This alarming conclusion is shared by many in Washington, where Mr. Allison’s book is causing a stir... China and America could blunder into war in several ways, argues Mr. Allison... With Donald Trump in the White House, Mr. Allison worries that even a trade war might turn into a shooting war.” THE ECONOMIST
“Graham Allison has written what I think will be the definitive book on the relationship between China and the United States.” DAVID RUBENSTEIN, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman of The Carlyle Group
“The reason Destined for War is such an important book is that it asks: if China, with its current form of government and economic arrangement, rises to be twice as big as the United States, spending twice as much on everything including its military, then what happens? Most people do not want to accept that this scenario is possible, let alone even contemplate what happens… If war happens, it would be an all-out catastrophe. So we need to do everything we possibly can to avoid it.” LI LU, Founder and Chairman of Himalaya Capital Management
“Graham Allison has articulated an idea known as the “Thucydides Trap.” It states that, through history, the rise of an emerging power very often creates fear and anxiety among established powers, which can (in the worst-case scenario) lead to war. Schwarzman Scholars was designed to help defuse those tensions and create a more peaceful world.” STEPHEN SCHWARZMAN, CEO of Blackstone Group
“My Book of the Week from Sunday’s show: Graham Allison’s Destined for War. A very smart and important book.” FAREED ZAKARIA, host of CNN’s GPS
Destined for War:Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? Read every page… Twice.”   ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, former White House Communications Director
Destined for War by Graham Allison informs the moment like Guns of August did for Kennedy in [the] Cuban Missile Crisis. Important lessons.” LLOYD BLANKFEIN, CEO of Goldman Sachs
Destined for War “sounds a useful, even important warning call… Stability and predictability are key factors in averting conflict. America needs a coherent strategy, rather than making sporadic lunges onto the world stage with either rhetoric or cruise missiles.”THE LONDON TIMES
"Destined for War has made the 2018 reading list of Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command…Whether you’re looking for a book or two to read over the holidays or beginning to compile your own 2018 professional development reading list, the books on this list are a great place to start.” MODERN WAR INSTITUTE AT WEST POINT
“The U.S. needs a strategy to deal with a China that is increasingly comfortable engaging aggressively in the world. A good primer on this is Graham Allison’s recent book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? Allison, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, tells the story of China’s truly meteoric rise over the past three decades, and makes the point that while we are playing checkers, the Chinese are not simply playing chess they are playing a different game altogether: Go.” ADMIRAL (RET.) JAMES G. STAVRIDIS, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780544935273
ISBN-10: 0544935276
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Pages: 384
Language: English