Welcome to the U.S.-China War of 2030

    Robert Farley

    Security, Asia

    Ending the Sino-American War of 2030 would require careful diplomacy, lest the war become only the first stage of a confrontation that could last for the remainder of the century.

    The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States appear ready to plunge off the precipice of a trade war. This war could have far-ranging effects on the economies of both countries, as well as the future of the global economic order. But as of yet, it does not seem likely to involve the flight of actual bombs and missiles. While the U.S. and China have a variety of minor conflicts, none rise to the level of a casus belli.

    But things could change over the next decade. Conflicts that now seem remote can take on urgency over time. As China’s relative power increases, the United States may find that small disputes can have big consequences. China, on the other hand, may see windows of opportunity in America’s procurement and modernization cycle that leave the United States vulnerable.

    By 2030, the balance of power (and the strategic landscape) may look very different. What would the War of 2030 between China and the United States look like?

    How Would War Begin?

    The core of the conflict remains the same. China and the United States might well fall into the “Thucydides Trap,” however misunderstood the ancient Greek historian may be. Chinese power seems to grow inexorably, even as the United States continues to set the rules of the global international order. But even if the growth of Athenian power and the concern this provoked in Sparta really was the underlying cause of the Peloponnesian War, it required a spark to set the world aflame. Neither the PRC nor the United States will go to war over a trivial event.

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