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<em>The Next Great War? The Roots of World War I and the Risk of U.S.-China Conflict</em>

The Next Great War? The Roots of World War I and the Risk of U.S.-China Conflict

Book, MIT Press

December 2014

Editors: Richard N. Rosecrance, Adjunct Professor; International Security Program; Director, Project on U.S.-China Relations, Steven E. Miller, Director, International Security Program; Editor-in-Chief, International Security; Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom

Ordering Information for this publication

Belfer Center Studies in International Security

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Belfer Center Studies in International Security; International Security



A century ago, Europe's diplomats mismanaged the crisis triggered by the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and the continent soon plunged into World War I, which killed millions, toppled dynasties, and destroyed empires. Almost as soon as the armies began to march, scholars started trying to explain what caused the Great War. One hundred years later, the continuing debate over the causes of World War I has been joined by lively consideration of the parallels between the present international system and the world of 1914.

Are China and the United States fated to follow in the footsteps of previous great power rivals? Will today's alliances drag countries into tomorrow's wars? Can leaders manage power relationships peacefully? Or will East Asia's territorial and maritime disputes trigger a larger conflict, just as rivalries in the Balkans did in 1914?

The Next Great War? combines reinterpretations of history, applications of international relations theory, and discussions of the lessons that the outbreak of war in 1914 offers for the analysis of contemporary U.S.-China relations. In these essays, leading experts reconsider the causes of World War I and explore whether the great powers of the twenty-first century can avoid the mistakes of Europe's statesmen in 1914 and prevent another catastrophic conflict. They find differences as well as similarities between today's world and the world of 1914—but conclude that only a deep understanding of those differences and early action to bring great powers together will likely enable the United States and China to avoid a great war.

Contributors: Alan Alexandroff, Graham Allison, Richard N. Cooper, Charles S. Maier, Steven E. Miller, Joseph S. Nye Jr., T.G. Otte, David K. Richards, Richard N. Rosecrance, Kevin Rudd, Jack Snyder, Etel Solingen, Arthur A. Stein, Stephen Van Evera.




"The essays that Richard Rosecrance and Steven Miller have assembled in this volume are judicious and nuanced, brimming with insights for theorists, historians, and policymakers alike." —Ali Wyne, Global Asia

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"The 2014 centennial brought multiple comparisons between Europe 1914 and Asia 2014. Some of the best are assembled in Rosecrance and Miller's The Next Great War?: The Roots of World War I and the Risk of US–China Conflict (2015)." —Stein Tonnesson, International Area Studies Review

Read the entire review essay here>

"One of 2014's more thoughtful books" —Julian Snelder, The Interpreter, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Australia

Read the entire review here.

This review was reposted by The National Interest on February 2, 2015.

"Examining the causes of World War I, Rosecrance and Miller's star-studded cast of scholars ask all the right questions."—Lawrence Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"An excellent new academic volume, 'The Next Great War?: The Roots of World War I and the Risk of U.S.-China Conflict,' co-edited by Richard Rosecrance and Steven Miller, highlights that, in addition to deterrence, the United States also needs to work hard at cooperation — at integrating China into the global system."— Fareed Zakaria, The Washington Post

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"The Next Great War? [includes] chapters written by individuals who are actually experts on World War I and experts on China, as well as by former policymakers who have had to grapple with the challenges of sustaining the current international order. . . .  It asks whether we are truly in a 1914 moment today and whether war between China and the United States is inevitable. The answers, thankfully, are no and no." — Stephen John Stedman, The American Interest

"The Next Great War? is essential reading both for those who are interested in the relevance of previous power transitions for East Asia today as well as those studying the international relations of the World War I era. . . . At a time when there has been much superficial punditry concerning the relevance of World War I for the present, this is a very welcome contribution." — Todd Hall, International Studies Review

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"To mark the centenary of World War I, an impressive array of distinguished scholars and practitioners have produced an edited volume revisiting the origins of this momentous conflict and drawing implications for the early twenty-first-century rise of China. . . . this volume is highly recommended for those who desire a magisterial overview of the road to World War I combined with thoughtful observations about the future trajectory of U.S.–China relations."

Andrew Scobell, Political Science Quarterly

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"Timely and important . . . The Next Great War? addresses this important and contentious question: will China's rise challenge US predominance and replicate prewar European Great Power rivalry? . . . The contributors make a concerted effort to examine some of the factors leading to the first Great War, from balance of power politics and alliances to regime types and domestic coalitions. Several themes emerge from the book, some of them deeply worrying, while others will reassure readers that sanity will prevail more than a century after the Great War."

Jingdong Yuan, International Affairs, July 2016

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Praise for The Next Great War?

"The origins of the First World War have eerie parallels to the present. Will war again be an inevitable outcome of the changing balance of power and entangling alliances? In this timely book, top international relations experts ask whether nations today can better control their destinies as China rises and challenges the global order and the world lurches toward new conflicts." — Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

"None of the leaders who drifted into war in August 1914 would have done so could they have foreseen the world of 1918. In this thought-provoking volume, distinguished observers and participants in international affairs assess the origins of that catastrophe and its important lessons for the future."  — Henry A. Kissinger

"What can World War I, a devastating conflict that no state wanted to happen, teach us about how to prevent a twenty-first century war in Asia? In this book, an all-star team of historians and international relations scholars review the origins of World War I and highlight important lessons for the U.S. and China, including watch out for allies and build cross-cutting alliances and regional concerts. Should be required reading in Washington and Beijing." — Susan L. Shirk, Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations, University of California, San Diego

"This is an unusually rich and insightful collection that offers a convincing as well as a thought-provoking discussion of why war broke out in 1914 and lessons that might be drawn for the future of U.S-China relations. It suggests that much more will depend on the sagacity of our future leaders than on any recurring patterns of the past." — Zara Steiner, Emeritus Fellow, Murray-Edwards College, University of Cambridge


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

For Academic Citation:

Rosecrance, Richard N. and Steven E. Miller, eds. The Next Great War? The Roots of World War I and the Risk of U.S.-China Conflict. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, December 2014.

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