: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.”
So while no official would dare say so publicly as President Hu Jintao bounced from the White House to meetings with business leaders to factories in Chicago last week, his visit, from both sides’ points of view, was all about managing China’s rise and defusing the fears that it triggers. Both Mr. Hu and President Obama seemed desperate to avoid what Graham Allison of Harvard University has labeled “the Thucydides Trap” — that deadly combination of calculation and emotion that, over the years, can turn healthy rivalry into antagonism or worse.
It was striking, in fact, just how carefully both sides had used the past five months — in letters and phone calls between the presidents and quiet shuttling between Beijing and Washington — to diffuse fears that have already cropped up on both sides.
Mr. Obama, in letters and phone calls, had been mixing his customary assurances that he has no interest in containing China’s rise with a new strategy to persuade Beijing that it should no longer treat the Kim family dynasty in North Korea with kid gloves. The United States, he told the Chinese, has concluded that the North’s recent unpredictability, as shown in attacks on South Korean targets, in combination with its development of new missile technology that may be able to hit the West Coast in five years, made for a direct national security threat to the United States. “That rang their bells,” said a senior American official who deals with China often.