Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani on US-China Competition

Kishore Mahbubani, a prolific writer, speaker and former Singaporean diplomat, believes that the western domination of the world over the last 200 years is "aberrant" when seen in the context of the last several thousand years of human history.  In his book "Has China Won", he writes that "we are also moving away from a black-and-white world". "Societies in different parts of the world, including in China and Islamic societies, are going to work toward a different balance between liberty and order, between freedom and control, between discord and harmony". 

Kishore Mahbubabi

In a recent interview, Mahbubani made the following points about US-China competition: 

1. The United States with about 240-year history likes to pass judgement on China which has over 2,400 year history. What makes the US think China would listen to the American advice? 

2. The West is in the habit of judging everyone, including the Chinese. The Chinese have just had the best 30 years of their history. Would the Chinese listen to the American advice on "democracy" and political freedoms after they have seen what happened to Russia when the Russians decided to adopt democracy in the1990s and their economy collapsed? 
3. More than 120 million Chinese tourists go to other countries freely and willingly return to China every year. Would they return freely if China was an oppressive stalinist regime? The fact is that while political freedoms have not increased there has been an explosion of personal freedoms in China over the last 30 years.
Global Power Shift Since Industrial Revolution

A recent post-COVID survey conducted by the Washington Post shows that Chinese citizens’ trust in their national government has jumped to 98%. Their trust in local government also increased compared to 2018 levels — 91% of Chinese citizens surveyed now said they trust or trust completely the township-level government. Trust levels rose to 93% at the county level, 94% at the city level and 95% at the provincial level. 
An earlier 2018 World Values Survey reported that 95% of Chinese citizens said that they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the national government. Comparatively, about 69% felt the same way about their local government. 
Here's a video of Mahbubani's interview:

http://www.youtube.com/embed/KaPFmYxWMzI"; title="YouTube video player" width="560"></iframe>" height="315" src="https://img1.blogblog.com/img/video_object.png" width="560" style="cursor: move; background-color: #b2b2b2;" />

Views: 228

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 9, 2021 at 4:03pm

A recent post-COVID survey conducted by the Washington Post shows that Chinese citizens’ trust in their national government has jumped to 98%. Their trust in local government also increased compared to 2018 levels — 91% of Chinese citizens surveyed now said they trust or trust completely the township-level government. Trust levels rose to 93% at the county level, 94% at the city level and 95% at the provincial level.

An earlier 2018 World Values Survey reported that 95% of Chinese citizens said that they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in national government. Comparatively, about 69% felt the same way about their local government.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated that the western style elections and democracy are not the only means to earn legitimacy in the eyes of the people. It has shown that it is far better to deliver results to earn "performance legitimacy".


https://www.riazhaq.com/2021/07/ccp-centennial-chinese-economic-mir...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 12, 2021 at 11:31am

#China's #Huawei accused of stealing trade secrets.#US #software company Business Efficiency Solutions has sued Huawei in #California federal court for allegedly stealing its trade secrets while working together on a project for the #Pakistani government. https://www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/huawei-accused-stealing...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 16, 2021 at 11:41am

How Britain stole $45 trillion from India
And lied about it.
Jason Hickel
Academic at the University of London and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2018/12/19/how-britain-stole-45-...

There is a story that is commonly told in Britain that the colonisation of India – as horrible as it may have been – was not of any major economic benefit to Britain itself. If anything, the administration of India was a cost to Britain. So the fact that the empire was sustained for so long – the story goes – was a gesture of Britain’s benevolence.

New research by the renowned economist Utsa Patnaik – just published by Columbia University Press – deals a crushing blow to this narrative. Drawing on nearly two centuries of detailed data on tax and trade, Patnaik calculated that Britain drained a total of nearly $45 trillion from India during the period 1765 to 1938.


It’s a staggering sum. For perspective, $45 trillion is 17 times more than the total annual gross domestic product of the United Kingdom today.

How did this come about?

It happened through the trade system. Prior to the colonial period, Britain bought goods like textiles and rice from Indian producers and paid for them in the normal way – mostly with silver – as they did with any other country. But something changed in 1765, shortly after the East India Company took control of the subcontinent and established a monopoly over Indian trade.

Here’s how it worked. The East India Company began collecting taxes in India, and then cleverly used a portion of those revenues (about a third) to fund the purchase of Indian goods for British use. In other words, instead of paying for Indian goods out of their own pocket, British traders acquired them for free, “buying” from peasants and weavers using money that had just been taken from them.


It was a scam – theft on a grand scale. Yet most Indians were unaware of what was going on because the agent who collected the taxes was not the same as the one who showed up to buy their goods. Had it been the same person, they surely would have smelled a rat.

Some of the stolen goods were consumed in Britain, and the rest were re-exported elsewhere. The re-export system allowed Britain to finance a flow of imports from Europe, including strategic materials like iron, tar and timber, which were essential to Britain’s industrialisation. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution depended in large part on this systematic theft from India.

On top of this, the British were able to sell the stolen goods to other countries for much more than they “bought” them for in the first place, pocketing not only 100 percent of the original value of the goods but also the markup.

After the British Raj took over in 1858, colonisers added a special new twist to the tax-and-buy system. As the East India Company’s monopoly broke down, Indian producers were allowed to export their goods directly to other countries. But Britain made sure that the payments for those goods nonetheless ended up in London.

How did this work? Basically, anyone who wanted to buy goods from India would do so using special Council Bills – a unique paper currency issued only by the British Crown. And the only way to get those bills was to buy them from London with gold or silver. So traders would pay London in gold to get the bills, and then use the bills to pay Indian producers. When Indians cashed the bills in at the local colonial office, they were “paid” in rupees out of tax revenues – money that had just been collected from them. So, once again, they were not in fact paid at all; they were defrauded.


Meanwhile, London ended up with all of the gold and silver that should have gone directly to the Indians in exchange for their exports.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 2, 2021 at 5:03pm

#British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace: "It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower. But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force" #USA #Afghanistan #superpower https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/britain-is-not-a-superpower-an-...

Britain’s 2007 decision to build and deploy two aircraft carriers — now accompanying the Americans in the Pacific — has been seen by many in the military as an absurd overstretch from a country in denial about still being a global power. Wallace sees it differently. ‘I think it really goes to what the definition of what a global power is,’ he says. ‘It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower. But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force, it’s just a big power.’

Britain, meanwhile, can act with others. ‘I take the view that the future of foreign policy around the world will involve more bilateral than trilateral alliances depending on the problems we face. So, West Africa may be a more French/British thing, East Africa may be the same.

‘Britain hasn’t been able to field a mass army for 50 years — if not longer.’ At the back end of the Cold War, he says, he was in the British Army of the Rhine. 'It was always part of a massive international effort — so I think our defence paper is in exactly the right space.’ Britain, he says, still has ‘a huge range of tools at our disposal: from soft to hard power, economic power, scientific power and cultural power’.

Military intervention will still play a role. ‘Some countries in Africa are on the edge of being failed states.’ Stopping them from collapsing, he says, could stave off other conflicts. ‘What you need is an armed forces that can help the resilience of the [African] governments so things don’t get so acute that you end up having a proper fight,’ he says. ‘Fundamentally, I think that is what we need to be doing in the world.’ An important question is whether the intervention-weary public would be so keen for British forces to shore up African governments.

The United Nations, Wallace says, has been noticeable by its absence in Afghanistan and elsewhere. ‘If the UN isn’t for helping failed states, then what is it for?’ The question also arises in West Africa. ‘The anti-corruption, the deradicalisation, the education, all of the things the UN signed up to in the Algeria agreement haven’t been delivered. You don’t stop terrorism and security unless you deal with the other stuff.’

Difficult questions are also facing Europe. ‘We have risen to America’s challenge: to spend more on defence. I think the question is actually for Europe: is Europe prepared to put its money where its mouth is? To be fair to Donald Trump, he was straight as a die on that. There’s a difference between taking America for granted and depending on America. I think historically we have taken America for granted and that means we now need to step up to invest. The Prime Minister has made the biggest investment since the Cold War and we will continue to do that. Let’s hear what the others do.’

The other issue is staying power. ‘The question for the West — whether it is Ukraine, whether it is the South China Sea or upholding international laws — is resolve. That is the question: do we have resolve?’ Like Tony Blair, he dislikes the phrase ‘forever war’. ‘I think standing up for the values you believe in, standing up to protect your interests, is a forever commitment. It’s unending — so be prepared.’

He recently visited the Korean War memorial in Seoul, which is marked by the words ‘Freedom is not free’. ‘That is absolutely right — freedom is not free. Of course, we hope that standing up for it doesn’t involve the lives of our men and women. But when your adversary is constantly challenging you, then you have to constantly stand up for what you believe and constantly enable the defence of it. And that will be forever.’

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 10, 2021 at 7:54pm

ASEAN needs more Belt and Road money, say ministers - Nikkei Asia

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Belt-and-Road/ASEAN-needs-more-Be...

Meeting online at a Belt and Road Summit, ASEAN ministers said the region has benefited from the infrastructure and digital connectivity already brought about by BRI, but new initiatives are needed to create opportunities amid pandemic-induced uncertainties.

"I am of the view that there are many tangible aspects that could be derived from the multinational partnership and cooperation under the BRI," said Sansern Samalap, Thailand's vice minister for commerce.

Sansern gave the example of the BRI flagship $5.75 billion China-Thailand high-speed railway project that will promote investments in the Greater Mekong Subregion, which includes Cambodia and Laos as part of the China-Indochina economic corridor.

Finally signed last October after numerous delays over terms and conditions, the initial 253 km line will connect Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, the gateway to northeastern Thailand. Phase one of construction has already begun, and is slated for completion in late 2026. The final 873 km line will carry on up to Vientiane, the Laotian capital, and from there continue north to Kunming in China's Yunnan Province.

"Investors can grab this business opportunity and use Thailand as the gateway into the subregion and ASEAN," said Sansern.

Top Chinese officials participated in the summit, including Gao Yunlong, vice chairman of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.

The BRI was unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013. In 2020, China signed BRI cooperation agreements with nearly 140 countries to promote connectivity between Asia, Europe and Africa, mainly through infrastructure projects.

Tan See Leng, Singapore's minister for manpower, told the summit that accelerating ASEAN development plans has become more important if countries are to overcome the current economic slowdown,

"In such times, the BRI plays an even more important role in strengthening regional and multilateral cooperation by promoting connectivity in infrastructure, in finance and in trade," said Tan.

The Asian Development Bank recently downgraded its growth forecast for Asia to 7.2% from the 7.3% projected in April, citing the recent rapid spread of COVID-19 and low vaccination levels in Asian countries.

Tan said Singapore will partner China on some investments in BRI projects. Companies from the two countries are collaborating in various sectors, including logistics, e-commerce, infrastructure, finance and legal services.

Jerry Sambuaga, Indonesia's vice minister for trade, said BRI projects have boosted connectivity and created business opportunities.

"We must maintain this mutually beneficial partnership amidst uncertain global challenges," Sambuaga said. He called for more collaboration on Indonesian tourism projects that benefit local communities, and for the BRI to complement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation agreement.

RCEP, a 15-country multilateral free trade deal signed in 2020 by ASEAN along with Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, is due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Some analysts expect a delay, however, as not all governments have ratified the agreement in their national legislatures.

Singapore's Tan said today that the city state expected the "timely" implementation of RCEP on schedule.

"We look forward to the implementation of the RCEP in order to realize the benefit to businesses [and] to people while contributing to Asia's economy recovery and strengthening of confidence in the longer-term economic prospects of Asia," he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2021 at 6:33pm

Is the world ready for the continued decline of the West?
By Song Luzheng

https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202109/1234036.shtml


What happened in Afghanistan last month has twice shocked the world - the Taliban's rapid victory and takeover of Afghanistan, and the US' chaotic withdrawal from the country.

Both events have proved the failure of the US. The country could no longer afford the war in Afghanistan and had no choice but make peace with the Taliban. This has kicked off unimaginable dominoes. The US' final withdrawal would have been an even greater calamity had the Taliban not kept their word.

The decline of the US-led alliance is not a new topic. Following the 2008 global financial crisis, Brexit, Donald Trump's election as president, and Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan, the West has shown one thing in common: It is ready to abdicate responsibility. What has happened in Afghanistan reinforces it.

The UK has turned its back on a troubled EU to fend for itself. Trump has turned its back on the world by quitting international groups to shore up his "America First," or even "US only." US President Joe Biden has categorically abandoned Afghanistan by insisting on the withdrawal.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the West scrambled for anti-epidemic materials around the world in the early stage by making use of their financial advantages. Later they rushed to stockpile vaccines. Some of them were found to have illegally intercepted masks that were planned to be transported to third countries. Canada ordered vaccines for more than twice its population. Now the West has begun to promote a third dose of vaccine despite the protests of the WHO. However, only around 3 percent of Africa's population is fully vaccinated.

During its decline, the US-led alliance has worried the world by abdicating its responsibility. More importantly, it has also been unwilling to share power with the vast number of developing countries. This is utter selfishness. More than that, it has even clamped down on high-performing emerging countries.

China's Huawei is a typical example of this. The US government has cracked down on Huawei baselessly. This seriously violates the principles of market and rule of law broadly advocated by the West.

The US' crackdown on Huawei is an assault on China's tech industry. Its attempt to lure and divide developing countries while playing geopolitical game with China has destabilized the world order and also endangered world peace. For example, the world has seen the US actively involved in the South China Sea. It has courted China's neighboring countries, but everyone knows that US' move is only to serve its own interests. It will abandon the region if needed, just as it did in Afghanistan.

The current West-dominated international order is unsustainable with the West's continuing move of shifting responsibility. It is refusing to share power with developing countries.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 14, 2021 at 10:19pm

#China's Xi Jinping ignored #US President Biden’s suggestion of f2f summit. People briefed on the call said Xi did not use abrasive language but his overall message to #Biden was that the US must tone down its rhetoric. https://www.ft.com/content/81376b8c-6d97-4d19-b124-6656f27ce976


Joe Biden suggested he hold a face-to-face summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping during a 90-minute call last week but failed to secure an agreement from his counterpart, leading some US officials to conclude that Beijing is continuing to play hardball with Washington.

The US president proposed to Xi that the leaders hold the summit in an effort to break an impasse in US-China relations, but multiple people briefed on the call said the Chinese leader did not take him up on the offer and instead insisted Washington adopt a less strident tone towards Beijing.

The White House had portrayed the call — which took place at Biden’s request seven months after their first telephone conversation — as a chance to test if Xi was willing to engage seriously after several diplomatic meetings between US and Chinese officials garnered little progress.

Five people briefed on the call said that while Xi had used less abrasive language than his top diplomats had done this year, his overall message to Biden was that the US must tone down its rhetoric.

Biden has taken a harsh line on China, criticising its treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and its military activity around Taiwan. Beijing has responded by accusing the Biden administration of interfering in China’s core strategic interests.


A sixth person familiar with the situation said Biden had floated the summit as one of several possibilities for follow-on engagement with Xi, and that the US president had not expected an immediate response.

One US official briefed on the conversation said that while Xi did not engage with the idea of a summit, the White House believed this was partly due to concerns about Covid-19. Xi has not left China since he went to Myanmar in early 2020 before the outbreak of the pandemic.

The US had considered the G20 gathering in Italy in October for a possible summit, but Chinese media have suggested that Xi may not attend. He will also not attend the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation meeting this week in Tajikistan, where China, Russia, India, Pakistan and central Asian countries will discuss Afghanistan.


Another person familiar with the Biden-Xi call said it was conceivable that the Chinese president just did not want to commit at this particular point in time. A different person said it was possible that the two sides could agree to a video call — a step up from a phone call — around the time of the G20. But three people said the US was disappointed with Xi’s apparent lack of interest in a summit.

The White House declined to comment before publication of this article but Biden later told reporters who asked if he was disappointed that Xi did not want to meet that it was “not true”, according to Reuters.

The president made the comments after Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, had said the account of the Biden-Xi call was not accurate. “This is not an accurate portrayal of the call. Period,” Sullivan said in a statement. “As we’ve said, the presidents discussed the importance of being able to have private discussions between the two leaders, and we’re going to respect that.”

Chinese accounts of the call emphasised that it had been initiated by Biden, and quoted Xi as saying that US policies had caused “serious difficulties”. They also noted that the US “looks forward to more discussions and co-operation” with China, in language that implied Washington was pushing harder for engagement than Beijing.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 16, 2021 at 7:34pm

#China's new #hypersonic #missile test: The #nuclear-capable rocket that circled the globe took #US #intelligence by surprise. Top #American general sees it as "significant challenges to my Norad capability to provide threat warning & attack assessment”. https://www.ft.com/content/ba0a3cde-719b-4040-93cb-a486e1f843fb


Five people familiar with the test said the Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target.

The missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles, according to three people briefed on the intelligence. But two said the test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realised.

The test has raised new questions about why the US often underestimated China’s military modernisation.

“We have no idea how they did this,” said a fourth person.

The US, Russia and China are all developing hypersonic weapons, including glide vehicles that are launched into space on a rocket but orbit the earth under their own momentum. They fly at five times the speed of sound, slower than a ballistic missile. But they do not follow the fixed parabolic trajectory of a ballistic missile and are manoeuvrable, making them harder to track.

Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy who was unaware of the test, said a hypersonic glide vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead could help China “negate” US missile defence systems which are designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles.

“Hypersonic glide vehicles . . . fly at lower trajectories and can manoeuvre in flight, which makes them hard to track and destroy,” said Fravel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Fravel added that it would be “destabilising” if China fully developed and deployed such a weapon, but he cautioned that a test did not necessarily mean that Beijing would deploy the capability.

Mounting concern about China’s nuclear capabilities comes as Beijing continues to build up its conventional military forces and engages in increasingly assertive military activity near Taiwan.

Tensions between the US and China have risen as the Biden administration has taken a tough tack on Beijing, which has accused Washington of being overly hostile.

US military officials in recent months have warned about China’s growing nuclear capabilities, particularly after the release of satellite imagery that showed it was building more than 200 intercontinental missile silos. China is not bound by any arms-control deals and has been unwilling to engage the US in talks about its nuclear arsenal and policy.

Last month, Frank Kendall, US air force secretary, hinted that Beijing was developing a new weapon. He said China had made huge advances, including the “potential for global strikes . . . from space”. He declined to provide details, but suggested that China was developing something akin to the “Fractional Orbital Bombardment System” that the USSR deployed for part of the Cold War, before abandoning it.

“If you use that kind of an approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM trajectory. It’s a way to avoid defences and missile warning systems,” said Kendall.

In August, General Glen VanHerck, head of North American Aerospace Defense Command, told a conference that China had “recently demonstrated very advanced hypersonic glide vehicle capabilities”. He warned that the Chinese capability would “provide significant challenges to my Norad capability to provide threat warning and attack assessment”.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 28, 2021 at 10:10am

#Indian #Defense Analyst @BharatKarnad: #Nuclear-wise, #India is seriously lagging. #China has tested Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS)/ hypersonic glide vehicle. Top #US general has compared it to "Sputnik". #Pakistan has tested MIRVs. https://bharatkarnad.com/2021/10/28/nuclear-wise-india-is-seriously...

A decision approving a series of test firings of the Agni-5 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) has been pending for the last 10 years. When it was finally taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi it was done, it seems, again on a one-off basis, and with some reluctance. As to why this should be so is one of those mysteries only Modiji can unravel. It is clear the trigger for the test launch of Agni-5 was not some longview calculation in the wake of the news of the spectacular Chinese test of a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) in the guise of testing a hypersonic glide vehicle, but an attempt by India, a nuclear minnow, to say: Hey, notice me — I’m in the game too!!

Just how far ahead China is may be guaged from the Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, calling the Chinese achievement “significant” and a near “Sputnik moment” for America.

First re: Milley’s Sputnik ejaculation. The US was startled out of its wits when the Soviet Union in October 1957, launched the first man-made satellite — the 80kg, football-sized, orbiter — Sputnik-1, which event the History Division of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), heralds as the “Dawn of the space age”. Incidentally, NASA was created by the stirred and much shaken Eisenhower Administration in 1958. It led, in that period, to the US handily winning the space race by landing Neil Armstrong on the moon in May1969, and meeting President John F Kennedy’s May 1961 challenge to the American science & technology community and industry to do so by the end of that decade.

The shock in a complacent Washington at China’s successfully testing FOBS is as great as when a doubting US was rendered aghast at the Soviet Union’s pulling off a Sputnik some 65 years ago. We can now expect a full-fledged arms race in space to get underway with American companies being pushed, pulled, prodded and incentivised to, as soon as possible, have the US military not just field an array of FOBS, but also technology to neutralize hypersonic glide weapons able to home in on targets at 21 kms per second (Mach 5 to Mach 7 speeds) after transiting through space and re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.

The Chinese FOBS occasioned the 5,000 km Agni-5 IRBM test, which was a sort of small, “me too” reaction by India. There’s no parity, of course, because DRDO’s hypersonic programme is having the usual kind of troubles with this tech relating to the design of the glide vehicle (for smooth reentry) as also with the propellant mix for the initial and terminal phases of hypersonic flight. It may not be like for like, but Agni-5 is the only weapon available to India to blunt Beijing’s tendency to show India up as a strategic nonentity and to prevent nuclear bullying of the kind the Indian army, in the conventional arena, routinely suffers at the hands of the PLA on the disputed border.


----------

Pakistan mocking India’s nuclear posture by continuing to play the terrorism card and by speedily building up its stock of tactical nuclear weapons whose first use, it surmises and the record bears it out, has clearly deterred India from exploiting its conventional military edge.

-----------

Even Pakistan tested a MIRV a few years ago, who knows why India still hasn’t done so, would be a real game changer against China.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 17, 2022 at 6:51pm

What the Thucydides Trap gets wrong about China

https://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/geopolitics/202...

The alarming possibility of a major conflict between the US and China has been framed as a likely consequence of a pattern of great power behaviour first identified by the fifth-century BCE historian Thucydides. In his study of the Peloponnesian War, the Greek wrote: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” This argument is now most associated with the Harvard academic Graham Allison, who claims to have identified 16 instances in which a dominant power has sought to suppress an emerging rival before they became too strong. He notes, disconcertingly, that 12 of these ended in war.

Allison first presented his thesis of the “Thucydides Trap” in the Atlantic in 2015, and developed it in a book, Destined for War, in 2017. Since then, Allison’s argument that the relationship between the US and China is growing increasingly volatile has gained even more credibility with tensions over trade, the South China Sea and Taiwan.

But Allison’s notion of the Thucydides Trap – the tendency towards war when a rising power threatens to displace an existing one – fails to address the risks involved in conflict and the reasons why wars occur. The story told by Thucydides is much more complicated than the “Trap” suggests. The notion of inevitable conflict between Athens and Sparta elides the fact that the Athenian leader Pericles made poor strategic calls. Different decisions would have avoided war.

-------

The “Trap” argument is also undermined when you consider the view held by many experts that China’s power may have already peaked. The nation is facing a series of system problems that may halt its rise, including an unbalanced economy, an ageing population, environmental degradation and political dysfunction resulting from President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian turn. Indeed, recent war scares start from the assumption that the leadership in Beijing might want to invade Taiwan before China’s power wanes.

The risk of war in the Indo-Pacific region cannot usefully be understood as the result of an upstart power challenging the established global hegemon for supremacy. Issues of interest and alliances are as important as power balances, and all need to be watched carefully if conflict between the world’s preponderant forces are to be addressed and, hopefully, avoided.

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