The 16th GCR Working Seminar: More Than One Trap: Problematic Interpretations and Overlooked Lessons from Thucydides

By Prof. Steve Chan | 21 February 2019 | The Chinese University of Hong Kong



Co-organized with the International Affairs Research Centre of HKIAPS, the 16th Global China Research Programme Working Seminar was held on 21 February 2019. Prof. Seanon Wong, Assistant Professor of CUHK Department of Government and Public Administration, moderated the seminar.


Prof. Steve Chan received his PhD from the University of Minnesota in the United States. His research interests are international relations, political economy, foreign policy and East Asia. His publications include 15 books and over 150 articles and book chapters. His work has appeared in journals such as American Political Science Review and Comparative Political Studies. His recent book is Trust and Distrust in Sino-American Relations: Challenge and Opportunity (Cambria Press, 2017).


In the seminar, Prof. Chan appraised Thucydides’ Trap, which is a term used in international relations that explains that war occurs when there is power transition. Nowadays, there is popular opinion that using Thucydides’ Trap to predict the China-U.S. relationship. However, Prof. Chan pointed out that Thucydides’ Trap fails to recognize that there are several possible pathways to war. It only offers a structural explanation based on interstate power shifts and thus does not pay enough attention to historical contingency and human agency. Fifteen scholars, researchers, and students attended the seminar.