An exploration of why Thucydides’s Trap (a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one) is the best lens for understanding U.S.-China relations in the twenty-first century.
...argue[s] persuasively that adjusting to this global power shift will require great skill on both sides if conflagration is to be avoided ... helpfully illustrated with maps and charts...with wide-ranging, erudite case studies that span human history ... this fine book show[s] that China intends to evict the United States from Asia in order to restore its dominance over what it considers its historic spheres of influence. Unfortunately, Washington is poorly prepared to deal with a China that strategizes in terms of the symbolic undercurrents and sensitivities illuminated so dramatically by Allison.
The book is extremely uneven, a hodgepodge of borrowed history, gee-whiz cliches about current China and, occasionally, some genuine insights. Allison has worked or consulted for the Pentagon in several administrations, and he is at his best in writing with authority about defense issues ... In the best section of the book, Allison critiques America’s strategy toward China since the end of the Cold War (he calls it 'engage but hedge') and lays out alternative strategies ... The primary defect of the book is that it is weakest in the chapters on China itself. The view of China that Allison conveys too often reflects the distant, top-down view of outside elites, in which the Chinese Communist Party is all-powerful, enjoys public support and is firmly in control of the country.
Overheated topics invariably produce ill-considered books...A glance at a few new books suggests what scholars and journalists are thinking about the prospect of an Asian conflagration; the quality of their reflections is, to say the least, variable. The worst of the bunch, Graham Allison’s Destined for War, may also be the most influential, given that its thesis rests on a catchphrase Allison has popularized, 'Thucydides’s Trap' ... Allison is so excited by China’s swift growth that his prose often sounds like a mixture of a Thomas Friedman column and a Maoist propaganda magazine like China Reconstructs ... The thesis, in those general terms, isn’t implausible. His book would be more persuasive, however, if he knew more about China. Allison’s only informants on the subject appear to be Henry Kissinger and the late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, both of whom he regards with awe. This leads to some odd contradictions and a number of serious historical howlers.