Mohammed Al-Minshawi-Washington

The term "Thucydides Trap" has been termed historically to describe the state of the threat of Athena, the cradle of Greek civilization, by a rising power (China of our time) with the displacement of Sparta, the dominant force (now the United States) on the international stage.

With the great rise in the Chinese economy in recent decades, dozens of studies heralded the imperative of a future clash between China and the United States.

The pandemic of the emerging coronavirus (Covid-19) and its accelerated consequences have led to an unprecedented tension in relations between the two countries, which some see as a natural development in light of the conflicting nature of their goals.

During a White House press conference Thursday evening, US President Donald Trump confirmed that he had seen evidence indicating the Wuhan Institute for Viruses, which is the source of the virus, adding, "I do not understand how China prevented entry and exit from some cities, and they allowed the global transfer to and from China to continue." ".

A day earlier, Foreign Minister Pompeo assured Fox News that "the Chinese Communist Party now has a responsibility to tell the world how this pandemic came out of China and spread to the whole world, causing this global economic devastation."

The Washington Post also indicated that senior US officials are holding meetings to consult on reprisals that the Trump administration may take against China.

The US accusations prompted the Chinese foreign to respond to Jing Jingzhong, its spokesperson, to respond by saying, "The United States must realize that its enemy is the virus, not China, and should focus on combating its spread within their borders instead of blaming China."

On the other hand, many American television stations showed an advertisement funded by the campaign of presidential candidate Joe Biden, accusing the president of being lenient towards China.

An alternative to containing China,
Professor John Marshimer, of the University of Chicago, in his famous book "Tragedy of the Superpowers" exposes China's strength that cannot be compared to the United States. He believes that China's neighbors can play the main role in containing it so that it does not become a regional power in East Asia.

China has unstable relations with most of its neighboring countries. There are still Chinese differences with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the eastern China Sea, fueled by a long history of wars between the two countries.

There is Taiwan, which China regards as an inalienable part of its territory, and threatens to annex it if it declares independence, and Washington pledged to enter the war if China undertakes to annex Taiwan by armed force.


It also pushed Beijing's ambition to expand into the waters of the South China Sea in recent years for clashes between it and Vietnam and the Philippines. The two countries depend on the American military presence to deter Beijing, and there are tens of thousands of American soldiers in neighboring Japan and South Korea.

A military crescent
. The Chinese see that their country is surrounded by an American military crescent from the east and the south. Many experts expect that with the huge increase in the size of the Chinese economy and the accumulation of wealth, China will go to expand its military capabilities and begin attempts to dominate its neighbors first.

In an academic study of him, Stephen Lowell, an academic at Utah State University, believes that with China's economic rise, it will undoubtedly attempt to offset the US naval capacity in the Pacific Ocean by building naval military capabilities that approximate its American counterpart.

In press statements, Loubel proposes that China be accepted as a major military power as a new reality, while other experts oppose this proposition and demand the necessity to start taking proactive steps that prevent its military expansion even if it is necessary to launch military attacks to achieve this goal.

Marshimer believes that China's economic strength will push it to dominate Asia in the same way that the United States dominates the Americas.

He advised the professor to support military cooperation with India, China's western neighbor, and with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, in order to stand up to China's dominance of the Asian continent.


And he raises a question about the possibility of containing the Chinese ambition peacefully and without resorting to the option of war, knowing that China has not known about pursuing armed hostile policies since the end of its border conflict with Vietnam more than forty years ago, while America knew the policy of military intervention in all parts of the world and without stopping.

Old concerns:
In 2001 some experts were a turning point in China's rise and the United States’s decline. It was in this power that the September 11 attacks and the ensuing US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the start of its war on global terrorism occurred, and in the same year China was admitted to membership in the World Trade Organization.

Washington was preoccupied with its wars, while China devoted itself to industrialization and freedom of trade without supervision or obligating to change its protectionist policies against foreign investment and allowing foreign companies to enter their markets only after complying with the conditions of the Chinese government.

Years ago, Professor Graham Allison of Harvard University shouted a dismay cry, warning the world that it was necessary to prepare for an unavoidable clash between the United States and China according to the logic of "Thucydides trap."

Alison chaired an academic team that looked at 16 models of competition between dominant and rising power, from the 16th century until the Cold War, and how the helm of global leadership changed.

The study concluded that the armed war resolved 12 cases while peaceful change took place in only four cases, including the case of the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the United States, which ended with an American victory without the need for direct armed conflict.

On the other hand, China has witnessed economic growth as a miracle during the past four decades, and the following table summarizes the size of what it reached compared to the United States during the period from 1980 to 2014.

China to the United States



Gross national product in purchasing power (GDP / PPP)



USD Gross Domestic Product ($)



Total exports



Total foreign reserves



The previous table reflects what China has achieved economically and commercially, as it has become the first trading partner for most of the countries of the world. In 1980, the size of the Chinese economy was the same as the Dutch economy, and today the Chinese economy surpasses its European counterpart.

Relations and weapons
Many intellectual schools see the impossibility of a military conflict between China and the United States, depending on the size and intensity of trade and economic relations that exceeded seven hundred billion dollars last year, in addition to the two possessing nuclear weapons and ICBMs.

However, these schools ignore historical experiences that revealed that the great trade and economic relations between Germany and Britain and the rest of their neighbors before the Second World War did not prevent them from entering the war. The interdependence on the commercial and economic side is not enough to guarantee peace, since politics is the driver of the economy, not the other way around.

On the other hand, the war can take place on a maritime scale only, or in a specific geographical area, which does not require the resort to nuclear weapons. The Korean War knew this model, as the United States participated in supporting the southerners, and China interfered with the North and did not use nuclear weapons. Various indirect confrontations took place between the Soviet Union and the United States in a number of parts of the world without resorting to nuclear weapons.

Confrontation, however, the
US national security strategy, the beginning of the Trump era, explicitly indicated that China seeks to challenge the power, influence, and interests of Washington, in an attempt to harm the security and prosperity of the American people.

The National Defense Strategy issued by the Pentagon in mid-2018 clearly indicated to China that it is "a strategic competitor seeking to modernize its armed forces to ensure regional control over the Pacific Ocean and South Asia, and to combat the United States' global influence."

China's military budget exceeded 170 billion dollars in 2018, which amounted to only 77 billion in 2007. It was linked to the military increase to increase the number of soldiers to exceed two million.

And some military experts believe that containing China peacefully now would only delay the date of the confrontation for several years. The coming days will reveal whether the Corona virus will accelerate the confrontation between the two parties, or will it force them to cooperate jointly to defeat the virus?