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Capstone Projects

Thucydides Trap: A Data Driven Discussion

Program: Data Science Master's
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin (onsite)
Student: Robert Huelsman

War and conflict have been with us since the dawn of time. In ancient times, war was a “winner take all” struggle but in more modern times it has changed into a contest over resources driven by strategy and self-interest. Graham Allison wrote “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” in 2017. According to his theory, war becomes inevitable when a rising power challenges a ruling power. He references 16 conflicts between ruling/rising powers in the last 500 years. Historical data exist in various forms for multiple countries over the past centuries. That data was analyzed in 2 parts, the first to identify which factors were more likely to result in war between the powers (qualitative) and the second to predict Allison’s theory using Game Theory (quantitative) analysis. Mathematical formulae can be used to determine a state of equilibrium that exists between players to determine what moves are in the player’s best interest. Various theories and backgrounds are presented that substantiate what actions nations have taken and why nations decide on courses of action. Further analysis is provided to indicate the changing state of affairs between China and the United States and rationales behind what strategies may be selected and why. Additional data discovered through charts and analysis provided by multiple author’s rounds out the discussion. Data, history and analysis are fused together to answer the single question – can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap?