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The Great War Analogy and the Sino-American Security Dilemma: Foreboding or Fallacious?

Drawing on the analogical lessons of the Great War, this
article uses applied history to analyze how the four parallels discerned can help us make sense of contemporary Sino-American rivalry

Author
Friso Stevens
Date
09 October 2020

The first section seeks to explain how deliberate reciprocal moves forged the interconnected causal chain that steered Europe into the abyss, and how that translates into the strategic complex in East Asia today. Contrasting the fallacious notion of inevitability, the following section explores what the diverging understanding of and aspirations toward regional order mean for the Sino-American security dilemma. The third section involves an important factor in crisis decision-making and escalation: offensive defense planning and the joint effect of modern weapons technology. In the final section, I unpack Xi Jinping’s nationalist “China Dream” propaganda vehicle, how it ties into the great uncertainties present in contemporary Chinese society, and how leaders can be backed into a corner by abstract notions such prestige and audience cost. Working in conjunction, these four parallel variables of the Industrial Age are likely to shape the outcome of Sino-American rivalry in the present Information Age.

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