As President Trump’s trade war with China continues, weakening relations between the two powerful states have already begun exacerbating tensions between U.S. and Chinese interests in other realms of geopolitics. Diplomatic spats about how the United States views Taiwan, and a looming standoff between the Chinese and the U.S.-led Pacific forces that challenge China’s claimed sovereignty over the majority of the South China Sea are now no longer just simmering disputes without a clear path toward resolution — they’re starting to look like the varied facets of a slow-and-steady march toward war.

For those who have built their careers out of thriving at that point of conflict — where words and actions have reverberating effects on the lives of millions for years to come — the symptoms of war can become fairly easy to discern. Dehumanizing political rhetoric, a focus on your opponent’s human rights abuses, and, of course, repeated reminders of the threat the opponent poses to the general public are all the wickets that need to be hit before a nation can stomach declaring war.

Today, you’ll find each of those, as well as a host of other red flags, pouring freely from American and Chinese politicians. It isn’t necessarily about grooming these nations for war, so much as it’s about grooming the people to withstand one if it were to become inevitable. Vietnam demonstrated to policymakers for the first time that souring public support for a military operation can turn the tides of battle just as effectively as bullets or bombs — and the world’s leaders took notice. If you hope to at least present the image of a nation that listens to its people, you now have two options when it comes to war: only declare them when the public demands it… or stir up the demand from the public yourself.

Retired Lt. General Ben Hodges, who previously served as the commander of all U.S. Army forces in Europe, now earns a paycheck as a defense strategy expert for the Center for European Policy Analysis. Recently, Hodges remarked on the likelihood that a conflict would break out with China in the near future, and how that will affect America’s ability to serve as a deterrent force for Russian aggression in Europe.

“The United States needs a very strong European pillar. I think in 15 years — it’s not inevitable — but it is a very strong likelihood that we will be at war with China,” Hodges said at the Warsaw Security Forum. “The United States does not have the capacity to do everything it has to do in Europe and in the Pacific to deal with the Chinese threat.”

Fifteen years isn’t a long and arbitrary prediction. The retired general didn’t suggest a century, or even a generation from now American forces would find themselves squaring off against Chinese troops. Ben Hodges is saying a war with China is so close that a child born in America today wouldn’t even make it to their junior prom before the first shots of what could be World War III were fired. We’re not talking about some far-off possibility; we’re talking about a situation that could potentially be a single presidency away. If Donald Trump wins reelection in 2020 and his successor also managed to secure two terms, Ben Hodges believes that president could potentially preside over a war with the second most powerful economy on the planet.

That’s a really big deal… but is there any truth to it?

Well, predictions are tough — especially when it comes to incredibly complex relationships between nations. The United States and China are economically interdependent, regardless of the tough talk about trade that’s currently being tossed about. The Chinese military, while massive and amidst a large scale modernization effort, isn’t capable of fielding any formidable military presence in any part of the world that isn’t their own backyard. China has made some technological leaps beyond America’s defense apparatus — including hypersonic missile platforms — but the United States is dumping billions into its own programs to remedy that strategic advantage. The fact of the matter is, a war with China within the next 15 years seems about as likely as a war with Martians… but that isn’t to say that General Hodges has missed the mark.