How China can become the world’s top economy without starting a war

How China can become the world’s top economy without starting a war

Beijing must do more to manage its own peaceful rise

As tensions between the world’s two largest economies continue to escalate, the so-called Thucydides’ trap phenomenon has gained acceptance.

Coined by U.S. political scientist Graham Allison, the phrase alludes to Thucydides’ famous account of the life-or-death struggle between Sparta and Athens, and posits that when one great power threatens to displace another, war becomes inevitable.

Most recent discussions have centered on how the U.S. should approach the rise of China, but the few dealing with how China should manage its own rise either call for unrealistically radical political transformations, or are undergirded by ultranationalist sentiments.

What China really needs is progressive, outcome-driven reforms that would help it adapt to global rules at large, without undermining its political fundamentals and right to non-interference by outside forces. It is a fine line, but China should seek to change the rules for the betterment of its people — not just break the rules.