News

Cambridge Residents Slam Council Proposal to Delay Bike Lane Construction

News

‘Gender-Affirming Slay Fest’: Harvard College QSA Hosts Annual Queer Prom

News

‘Not Being Nerds’: Harvard Students Dance to Tinashe at Yardfest

News

Wrongful Death Trial Against CAMHS Employee Over 2015 Student Suicide To Begin Tuesday

News

Cornel West, Harvard Affiliates Call for University to Divest from ‘Israeli Apartheid’ at Rally

Former HKS Dean Graham Allison Met With Chinese President Xi Jinping During Beijing Visit

Former Harvard Kennedy School Dean Graham T. Allison '62 participates in an IOP forum in February. Allison met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing last month.
Former Harvard Kennedy School Dean Graham T. Allison '62 participates in an IOP forum in February. Allison met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing last month. By Frank S. Zhou
By Adithya V. Madduri, Aisatu J. Nakoulima, and Andrew Yu, Contributing Writers

Former Harvard Kennedy School Dean Graham T. Allison ’62 met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a nine-day visit to Beijing late last month.

Allison and a group of American business executives met Xi on March 27. Allison also had a one-on-one audience with Wang one day before on March 26.

Allison’s trip came just one week before Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke over the phone on Tuesday, the first conversation between the two leaders since Xi met with Biden in San Francisco on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November 2023.

But Allison said in an interview with The Crimson on Tuesday that he visited Beijing and met with the two Chinese leaders in his “personal capacity” and that he was not representing the U.S. government during the trip.

Even as Allison said he had nothing to do with the call between Biden and Xi, he welcomed their conversation as an important development following their meeting in San Francisco where they “agreed to stay in touch,” according to Allison.

Allison’s assistant wrote in a statement that the primary purpose of the meeting with Wang was “to discuss avenues of escaping Thucydides’s Trap.”

Thucydides’s Trap is a term coined by Allison to describe the escalation in political tensions when a major rising power begins to threaten a major ruling power. His book “Destined for War,” explored how Beijing and Washington can avoid war even as China becomes a global superpower on par with the U.S.

Allison drew on history to explain why he believes that the two countries are headed toward war.

Graham said that an analysis of similar situations where a rising power threatens the reign of a ruling power demonstrates that “the most frequent outcome is war.”

“If we settle for business as usual, or diplomacy as usual, or statecraft as usual, then we should expect history as usual,” Allison said. “And history as usual would be a catastrophic war.”

Still, Allison insisted that “war is not inevitable.”

“My aspiration has been for us to find a way to ‘escape Thucydides’ Trap,’” Allison added.

Despite his optimism that China and the U.S. will avoid war, Allison noted that the two countries are still rivals.

“They know we’re serious about cooperating where we can, but at the same time competing vigorously in almost every dimension,” Allison said.

But Tuesday’s phone call, Allison said, is an important indication that the uncomfortable relations between Xi and Biden are “better today than they were this time last year.”

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags
PoliticsHarvard Kennedy SchoolFacultyChina