Published: June 16, 2020

Steve Chan, University of Colorado Boulder

Published: 2020


The power-transition theory has been in vogue lately. Sometimes described as Thucydides's Trap, it claims that when a rising power catches up to an incumbent hegemon, the danger of war between them increases. Should we accept this claim? How compelling is its analytic logic and how strong is its historical evidence? I question this claim on both grounds, arguing that it is more suggestive of a misguided attempt to frame popular and elite discourse on contemporary Sino-American relations than a serious and thorough scholarly effort to understand the causes of war.

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