The so-called Thucydides trap that Graham Allison has most famously invoked to describe the intensifying competition between China and the US has been dismissed as irrelevant for current developments in East Asia and evidence of Euro-centrism.
In his essay, Professor Patrick Porter (University of Birmingham) instead argues that the power transition crisis Thucydides saw in the Peloponnesian war between a rising Athens and a declining Sparta in fact does have lessons for the current relationship between China and the US. As China continues to pursue prestige, influence and wealth, it will not back down when faced with robust international coalition. Consequently, if Europeans involve themselves in the Indo-Pacific region, they will face difficult choices.
This is the first of seven papers in the HCSS Guarding the Commons series, edited by Paul van Hooft and Tim Sweijs, and is part of the new HCSS “Europe in the Indo-Pacific Hub (EIPH)”. More will follow in the coming weeks.
Read the complete paper series here:
- Thucydides Lives in Asia: Power Transition Traps Are Real, by Patrick Porter (University of Birmingham)
- Between AUKUS and the Quad: Scaling European Interest in the Indo-Pacific, by Jagannath Panda (Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses)
- European Engagement in the Maritime Security in Indo-Pacific: a Japanese Perspective, by Yuki Tatsumi (The Stimson Center)
- Getting Real about the Indo-Pacific: Redefining European Approach to Maritime Security, by Frédéric Grare (European Council on Foreign Affairs – ECFR) and Mélissa Levaillant (Institute of Higher National Defence Studies)
- Multilateralizing Maritime Cooperation in East Asia: South Korea’s Cautious but Delayed Response, by Kuyoun Chung (Kangwon National University)
- It started with a ship… What role for Germany in the Indo Pacific’s security architecture?, by Johannes Peters (Head of Center for Maritime Strategy & Security at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK))
- Multilateralizing Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific: How Europe can contribute to regional deterrence, by Stephan Frühling (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University)
Cover photo source: Thucydides & Herodotus outside Austrian Parliament Building (Wikimedia Commons).