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KIU Book Club: Destined For War: Can America and China escape the Thucydides' trap? by Graham Allison


By Rogers Wanambwa 

KIU, Main Campus - Have you ever wondered where the relationship between the world's current two giants, the US and China is going? Whether it will decline considerably to war? Well you are not alone and in this rather long book, Destined for War by Graham Allison, you get quite many answers to these questions. 

Graham Allison, an esteemed scholar at Harvard University uses the Thucydides' trap to explain how nations, states, empires and cities have ended up at war with each other because of one which has already been established being threatened by the might of an upcoming other. 

In the book, Graham starts by giving the example of Athens and Sparta in Greek empire and follows up with over ten other examples through time to show how almost all but four of these  ended up at war.  

In order to show how China has come to be on the same level and perhaps surpass the US in quite a number of things, Graham uses statistics from various textbooks, articles and other sources to do this. For example when he quotes Lee Kwan Yew, the 'father of Singapore', “The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another big player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.” 

He goes on to note that, "Today workers in China are one quarter as productive as their American counterparts. If over the next decade or two they become just half as productive as Americans, China’s economy will be twice the size of the US economy. If they equal American productivity, China will have an economy four times that of the US."

This basically means that China's dominance is yet to reach its full glory. However, Graham notes that although in such circumstances where a leading power has been over taken or its position threatened by an emerging power, war has occurred, this can be avoided like in the case of US and Britain and US and the Soviet Union(Russia) during the Cold War. 

Graham gives a piece of advise in the book that "To escape Thucydides’s Trap, we must be willing to think the unthinkable—and imagine the unimaginable. Avoiding Thucydides’s Trap in this case will require nothing less than bending the arc of history." ~Pg. 30