Possible way of reducing great power war probability?

Sta­tus: spec­u­la­tive: I thought I would throw this out there for feed­back and maybe start a brain­storm­ing ses­sion for any other re­lated ideas.

Twelve out of 16 (Alli­son 2017) times that there has been a switch in which is the most mil­i­tar­ily pow­er­ful coun­try in the world, there has been war (though we should not take that liter­ally for the cur­rent situ­a­tion). Still, it might be worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing ways to pre­vent that switch, es­pe­cially if they have other benefits. The size of the econ­omy is not the same thing as mil­i­tary power, but there is a cor­re­la­tion, so I will fo­cus on the econ­omy.

China’s pur­chas­ing power par­ity is already larger than the US, but China’s mar­ket ex­change GDP is still sig­nifi­cantly lower than that of the US. The ques­tion is whether in­creased im­mi­gra­tion to the US could pre­vent China’s mar­ket ex­change GDP from ex­ceed­ing that of the US.

As Carl Shul­man points out, just one large de­vel­oped coun­try open­ing its bor­ders could ab­sorb billions of peo­ple if it at­tained the pop­u­la­tion den­sity of South Korea.

This shows that peak im­mi­gra­tion to the US was about 4.5% of the US pop­u­la­tion (and ~0.5% re­cently). By the way, it has an im­pres­sive an­i­ma­tion of im­mi­gra­tion to the US over time.

One es­ti­mate of the GDP growth rate of China in re­cent years has been fal­ling from ~8% to ~6%, and for the US ~2%. If one were to naïvely as­sume that GDP would scale with the pop­u­la­tion de­spite sig­nifi­cantly larger im­mi­gra­tion, one would es­ti­mate that if the US re­turned to its peak im­mi­gra­tion rate, the GDP would grow about as fast as the Chi­nese GDP is grow­ing now. Of course that large of im­mi­gra­tion rate would likely re­duce the GDP per cap­ita growth, but I think the ex­pec­ta­tion is that China’s GDP growth will con­tinue to slow. So I think it would be fea­si­ble for the US mar­ket ex­change GDP to stay ahead of China’s. This would be made eas­ier if a lot of peo­ple from China came to the US, which I think would be a gen­er­ally good thing in terms of US-China re­la­tions.

I go won’t go into the long list of pros and cons of in­creased im­mi­gra­tion, but I will sketch out some thoughts on this par­tic­u­lar mo­ti­va­tion for im­mi­gra­tion. Per­haps the ar­gu­ment of re­duc­ing the chance of great power con­flict would per­suade some more peo­ple to sup­port im­mi­gra­tion to the US. Another ar­gu­ment is ap­peal­ing to na­tional pride of not be­ing over­taken. But con­sid­er­ing this par­tic­u­lar ar­gu­ment, it does seem a bit strange to pro­mote na­tion­al­ism in or­der to re­duce the chance of con­flict, so could this back­fire?


Alli­son, G. (2017). Destined for War: Can Amer­ica and China Es­cape Thucy­dides’s Trap? Houghton Mifflin Har­court.