ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The United States Must Come Out of the Mahanian Trap


The Thucydides and Kindleberger Traps are the “traps” in vogue that explain the likely outbreak of hostilities between a rising China and a sliding United States (US). While the Thucydides Trap highlights the inevitability of war between the two powers due to their growing misunderstandings, the Kindleberger Trap pertains to how war between the two can be averted by the rising power’s greater involvement in “supply of public goods that the power in eclipse is no longer able to provide” (Kuo 2017).

The Thucydides Trap is more popular in American strategic circles because it helps instil an element of fear in China. It makes China divert its attention and resources away from economics and towards security. The Kindleberger Trap has not gained much traction among hawks or doves in the US foreign policy establishment because it provides leeway to Beijing to expand its investment drive under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Washington and its allies often “sneer” or “blithely cheer” at the BRI, hardly willing to acknowledge the Chinese investments under the “public good” category (Kuo 2017). The American realists, threatened by the prospect of the re-emergence of Eurasian transportation links and their impact on the maritime order, have launched a relentless campaign against Chinese investments in South Asia, Africa, and Central Asia along the BRI route. Marxist terminology—debt trap, predatory, imperial, comprador—is being liberally thrown around to describe Chinese investments.

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Updated On : 28th Jan, 2019
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