Last year Graham Allison of Harvard wrote an article for the Atlantic entitled “The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?” Allison noted that
in 12 of 16 cases over the last 500 years in which there was a rapid shift in the relative power of a rising nation that threatened to displace a ruling state, the result was war.
He goes on to examine the probability of a US-China clash, and points out that
And yet in four of the 16 cases that the Belfer Center team analyzed, similar rivalries did not end in war. If leaders in the United States and China let structural factors drive these two great nations to war, they will not be able to hide behind a cloak of inevitability. Those who don’t learn from past successes and failures to find a better way forward will have no one to blame but themselves.
It’s a great article, and well-worth reading.