Today, an irresistible rising China is on course to collide with an immovable America. The likely result of this competition was identified by the great historian Thucydides, who wrote: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.”
But the point of Destined for War is not to predict the future but to prevent it. Escaping Thucydides’s Trap is not just a theoretical possibility. In four of the 16 cases, including three from the 20th century, imaginative statecraft averted war.
Can Washington and Beijing steer their ships of state through today’s treacherous shoals? Only if they learn and apply the lessons of history.
Graham Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University where he has taught for five decades. Allison is a leading analyst of national security with special interests in nuclear weapons, Russia, China, and decision-making. Allison was the “Founding Dean” of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and until 2017, served as Director of its Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs which is ranked the “#1 University Affiliated Think Tank” in the world.
As Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Clinton and Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan, he has been a member of the Secretary of Defense’s Advisory Board for every Secretary from Weinberger to Mattis. He has the sole distinction of having twice been awarded the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Defense Department's highest civilian award, first by Secretary Cap Weinberger and second by Secretary Bill Perry for "reshaping relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to reduce the former Soviet nuclear arsenal." He has served on the Advisory Boards of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA.
Dr. Allison’s latest book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (2017), is a national and international bestseller. His first book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971), ranks among the all-time bestsellers with more than 500,000 copies in print.
Dr. Allison was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was educated at Davidson College; Harvard College (B.A., magna cum laude, in History); Oxford University (B.A. and M.A., First Class Honors in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics); and Harvard University (Ph.D. in Political Science).
Monday, December 16th 10:30 am
Doors Open at 10:00 am
CFLD Hall, Schwarzman College, B1 Level
Guests from both Tsinghua and other universities may register for this event by scanning the QR code. Attendees must show their confirmed reservation and valid university ID to access this event. Attendees will be admitted to Schwarzman College on condition that they adhere to all building and event policies. This event is not open to members of the media and will be held off the record. No attributions or descriptions of this event may be published or shared online without the written consent of both Tsinghua University and Schwarzman College. This lecture will be delivered in English.