Thucydides Trap not etched in stone

Updated: 2015-08-20 07:31

(China Daily)

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It takes two sides to keep peace

Although Thucydides' The History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the war between Athens and Sparta in 5th century BC, the West has made it a part of modern international relations. "What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear it caused in Sparta," wrote the Greek historian and philosopher. But more and more modern-day studies show emerging powers may not necessarily want to change the status quo.

The flip side of the Thucydides Trap, which many people have ignored, is that in many cases the declining power has started a conflict. Hence, Western scholars should shift their focus to declining powers.

Also, countries are caught in the Thucydides Trap because of two-way actions, which means the emerging power and the established power both are responsible for any eventuality.

The international relations agenda is set by Westerners, who cannot abandon their "pride and prejudice" or get used to China's rise. And they ignore the fact that an established power will take preemptive action to maintain its superiority. That is exactly what the US is doing now. This means the US is more responsible for the souring of Sino-US relations.

China wants to build a new type of major-power relationship with the US, because it is committed to peace and eager to take part in global governance. But one side's commitment cannot prevent a conflict, rather it could encourage the other side to make more provocative moves.

Mao Weizhun is doctoral candidate in politics at University of Konstanz in Germany.