Public guest lecture by professor Brantly Womack, University of Virginia
While there is no structural necessity for zero-sum conflict in the asymmetric rivalry of the U.S. and China, it is possible for an intransigent posture by either side to force the interaction in a hostile direction. China is not likely to be the prime mover toward direct confrontation because of the distractions of managing its Asian relationships. However, as many have either argued or assumed, most prominently Graham Allison, it is quite imaginable that the U.S. could see China as the cause of its deterioration in relative power and as a hegemonic threat. If the U.S. imagines that it is in strategic mortal danger, and acts that way, it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is what Brantly Womack is calling the “Allison Trap.” Because of the global importance of the U.S.-China relationship, the Allison Trap poses major diplomatic challenges not only to China, but to the rest of the world as well.