Recent years have witnessed an expansion of China’s influence, both within the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. On Thursday, May 9, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) for a discussion on the implications of China’s growing global role for American foreign policy and national security. The event launched a new Foreign Policy at Brookings initiative, “Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World.” The project utilizes original and in-depth research to provide the public and policymakers with a new baseline for evaluating the implications of China’s actions on the world stage. Senator Warner, a leading voice in the policy space, who has sponsored bipartisan legislation to counter technology-based threats from foreign powers and to protect American technological competitiveness, delivered remarks on several key issues that he sees as defining the future of U.S. policy toward China. Following his remarks, Ambassador Victoria Nuland, nonresident senior fellow with Foreign Policy at Brookings, joined Senator Warner onstage for a discussion on these themes. Questions from the audience followed the conversation.
For the past 40 years, East Asia has enjoyed relative stability. The absence of major power war facilitated integration into global supply chains and foreign investment flows, which together contributed to Asia’s singular achievement: the liberation of hundreds of millions of people from poverty and the emergence of a global middle class that has reshaped the global economy. This period of East Asian peace was also marked by high levels of U.S. engagement in the region. Asia’s long peace is now under growing strain due to mounting tensions between the United States and China concerning China’s growing power projection in the region, the rekindling of tensions in regional hotspots, and a shifting U.S. posture in the region that could impact the alliance structure and open trading system. Can Asia’s peace and prosperity be sustained?
At this key moment in Asia’s evolution, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at Brookings is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its establishment and the Foreign Policy program at Brookings is launching a program-wide project “Sustaining the East Asian Peace.” The core objective of the project is to identify the policy options for the U.S. and its allies and partners for preserving—and if necessary adapting—the policies and institutions that have made this long period of relative peace and sustained growth possible.
On May 1, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP) and the Foreign Policy program at Brookings hosted an event to examine the past 20 years of the East Asian peace, as well as its prospects for the future. In keeping with CEAP’s tradition of providing in-depth policy analysis of the region’s most pressing challenges, a panel of current and former CEAP fellows discussed the dynamics of East Asian foreign and domestic policy in recent decades. A second panel of distinguished policy experts discussed the future dynamics of the region, addressing economic, security, and technological trends unfolding in East Asia and their implications for the U.S. and the region.
On April 29, Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon and Rachel Martin, co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition, launched O’Hanlon’s latest book, “The Senkaku Paradox: Risking Great Power War Over Small Stakes.”
China claims the tiny and uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Yet, Japan also claims them, and the islands are covered by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. If China were to seize one or more of these islands, what should the United States do? Presumably, the United States would be obligated to come to Japan’s assistance to reestablish control of the occupied territory. However, if the conflict escalated, a major war between nuclear-armed countries could ensue—all over a few barren pieces of land with little, if any, inherent importance.
This is what Michael O’Hanlon calls the Senkaku paradox—how the logical application of a formal U.S. security commitment could lead to war that is disproportionate to the immediate stakes. The Senkaku scenario is only one example of a broader set of scenarios that for instance, could involve small-scale Russian attacks against NATO allies of the United States. With the Obama and Trump administrations’ renewed emphasis on great power competition, this issue has become even more urgent.
In February 2018, the Trump administration released the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which seeks to ensure that the United States will continue to maintain a safe, secure, and effective deterrent that protects the U.S. homeland, assures allies, and above all, deters adversaries. The NPR devotes significant attention to extended deterrence and recommends several specific actions to enhance U.S. and allied capabilities. However, in the current security environment, serious questions have emerged about the continued credibility of the U.S. extended deterrent. On April 24, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings hosted an event featuring a keynote address by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense David Trachtenberg, followed by a panel discussion involving experts and former government officials, to explore the issue in greater detail.
International security in the 21st century is increasingly characterized by the use of cyber operations. Concern over this still-developing domain of competition has led to inflated assessments of its dangers and greater support for a more aggressive U.S. posture on cyber security and cyber warfare. How do great powers like the United States, Russia, and China employ cyber capabilities? What threats does the United States currently face in this realm, and what is the most effective method of defense? What are the vulnerabilities of complacency, and, conversely, the risks of escalation?
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The U.S. military is debating everything from creating a sixth service for space to a unified combatant command to how to architect and buy a new satellites.