The power of unintended consequences: strategic naïvety, China and the end of the US empire

Chris Ogden*, Mark Bhaskar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

The decline of major global empires has frequently rested upon an act of strategic naïvety. Such an action or decision, although innocuous at the time, results many decades later in those empires collapsing. History is punctuated by examples of great powers that have misjudged the intentions of a rising power, leading to a highly adversarial relationship. Such unintended consequences can be seen in United States policy towards China, which has allowed Beijing to emerge as a clear competitor that is threatening to usurp US hegemony. This article considers these dynamics across seven major empires, dating from ancient Carthage circa 814 BC to modern day Pax Americana. By connecting the past to the present, we find that comparable acts of strategic naïvety by other empires are now increasingly evident in current US-China relations, and which have often occurred for similar reasons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-427
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Volume94
Issue number3
Early online date25 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Keywords

  • China
  • United States
  • Great powers
  • Imperial decline
  • Empire
  • Strategy

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