Conflict could also come as part of larger decisions to try and reshape the world. Power trends in Asia are already starting to shift as its military and economy begins the match those of the West.
President Xi Jinping has already made the connection between military strength and national primacy in his “Chinese dream” speech, which envisioned the concept of “Guanjun Guojia Genti”, or replacement of the US as the world’s leading power.
Meanwhile China’s economic ascendance bears the promise of lifting more people out of poverty than at any other point in human history – and along with it, the possibility of a nation looking to reorder the global system as befits it reacquired strength.
Throughout history, rising powers have repeatedly tested the status quo by using their might: Harvard professor Graham Allison found that, since 1500, 11 out of 15 such cases have resulted in conflict.
Or the decisions might be ones driven not by rising strength, but weakness. Russia is a once-great power now in economic and political decline.