Interview: US

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"Let's have this policy of patience and mutual understanding," the historian suggested.

"At least one side has understood the Allison thesis (the Thucydides trap)," Kennedy added, referring to a speech made by Chinese President Xi Jinping about three years ago.

"It would make it more difficult for Mr Trump's successor, when it comes ... to repair(ing) the damage," the scholar added.

BEIJING, March 27 (Xinhua) -- A "huge" trade deficit with China is reportedly behind the U.S. administration's plan to slap tariffs on up to 200 billion U.S. dollars of Chinese imports and restrict Chinese investment. Full story

The Thucydides trap, a catchphrase coined by Harvard professor Graham Allison, refers to the notion that when a rising power challenges an established one, conflict may ensue.

"We can produce all sorts of data which shows that China is 200-foot high and we could produce a lot more data which shows that China is four-foot high," he said. "So be careful which facts are being offered."

"There is nothing in the larger argument, in my humble view, which needs changing," the professor said.

Referring to the latest advocation of China threat in the West, Kennedy said that it could be a "too colorful" portrayal which failed to understand China's worries and weaknesses.

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. and China are not predestined to clash, a renowned historian at Yale University has said.

As China has become a major player in the world, the assumption of an unavoidable collision between Washington and Beijing has prevailed.

"Can we avoid the Thucydides trap?" asked Kennedy, a 72-year-old Yale professor, in a recent interview with Xinhua.


Meanwhile, the professor also pointed out that, as China has been steadily taking a larger share of global production in the past 200 years, it's natural that the Americans would be concerned about China's rise and the United States' relative decline.

Thirty-one years on, Kennedy said he still believes that the economic foundation of a great power determines and influences its relative position, the key argument in his 1987 book.

Commenting on the current "chaotic and turbulent and confusing policies" coming out of the Trump administration, Kennedy said that it is a case of "profound mismanagement and failure to understand the world as it is."

BEIJING, March 24 (Xinhua) -- History tells that trade wars are a losing game. No one benefits, and everyone ends up a bit bruised.

Meanwhile, Kennedy noted that so far Trump's presidency with policies out of "instinct" and "emotion" has "probably not yet" permanently damaged the relative U.S. position in the world.

"If you have leadership on both sides which recognizes that the single most important issue in big world power affairs is to avoid a serious China-America confrontation, then yes, we avoid it," the professor said.


"If one thing that China has a problem understanding current United States, then I would say in fairness, Americans, including clever Americans, have a problem understanding and trying to really measure the size of the American competitiveness challenge," Kennedy said.

However, for Kennedy, an Oxford-trained Briton, the big clash is not inevitable, and recognizing the trap is the first and a significant step in avoiding conflict.

The professor noted that a lack of mutual understanding could lead to mistrust.


In a 2015 trip to Washington, Xi said that China and the United States should keep their relations from falling into the trap.

"All of the threat from China could be too exaggerated," Kennedy added.

"We live in damaging times," Kennedy said.

Despite the risk of triggering a trade war, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum that could result in heavy tariffs on up to 200-billion-U.S.-dollar imports from China as well as restrictions on Chinese investments. Full story

Xi also noted that the two sides should expand cooperation and manage and control their differences to benefit more people of the two countries and the world at large.

In the final chapter of his book in 1987, Kennedy predicted a possible relative shrinking of the United States' power in the world affairs, seeing it as a challenge for the U.S. leadership to manage "cleverly this relative decline."

The tariffs are counterproductive to the American economy, and the simplistic win-lose view will be derided "by every economist we know," said Kennedy.

In fact, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, under the "America First" slogan, has already rolled out adversary plans and laws in the past months against China, ranging from the widely-criticized China tariffs, to the signing of the denounced "Taiwan Travel Act," and the warship provocation in the South China Sea.

As Washington increasingly ramped up rivalry policies against Beijing, Paul Kennedy, the author of the 1987 epic book "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers," highlighted the value of patience and mutual understanding for more productive bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, the Yale scholar cautioned that it is really difficult, "politically, emotionally, instinctively," to get the relations between the great powers right.

Considering how "vast and complicated" the U.S.-China relationship is, Kennedy said there is "no single significant magic wand" that can suddenly transform the bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, Kennedy pointed out that in the future, the United States may lose its number one title without losing a great power stage, as "it's too strong and too resilient."


"If there are further rash and counter-productive decisions by the White House, then it could so inflict damage on America's competitiveness, internal social fabric on cohesion, that it would weaken the country's position," said Kennedy.

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If the overall world cake is bigger, then "there is less prospect of a structural clash," the professor added.

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