President-elect Trump has talked by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking a tradition of non-communication at the highest level since the US downgraded relations with Taiwan and recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1979. Beijing has protested to Washington but is blaming Taipei in public.
The specifics of how the phone call was arranged remain murky. Did Trump initiate it, or President Tsai? Who else was involved? Did a Washington lobbyist or politician benefit from it? These things don’t just happen, but how and why in this case is still unclear.
Trump is claiming it’s no big deal: why shouldn’t he talk with the leader of a state that the US has close security and economic ties with? He is still a private citizen, even if president-elect. He has opted not to use the State Department in arranging for his congratulatory phone calls from overseas, presumably so that he is free to do as he likes. He likes to be unpredictable and not to give anything away for free: the phone call is in Trump’s view a signal to Beijing that it will need to give as well as get.
Part of the background to the phone call is apparently a visit to Trump from former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who advocates closer ties with Taiwan. He is also rumored to be a candidate for Secretary of State in the Trump Administration. Bolton shares Trump’s “take no prisoners” negotiating style: put your opponent off balance and keep him there.
While the Logan Act of 1799 prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes with the US, only one person has ever been indicted under its provisions. Private citizens doing business with foreign governments without the approval of the US government is far more the rule than the exception. I could be accused of doing it myself quite often, even if I state explicitly in virtually all my dealings that I don’t speak for the US.
The real issue here is the One China policy, not the phone call. Taiwan in the 37 years since US recognition of Beijing (and de-recognition of Taipei) has become increasingly democratic, secure, and prosperous. President Tsai is no fan of One China, claiming instead that Taiwan is already a state but hesitating to claim independence and sovereignty. Should the US continue with the Nixon-era policy of supporting Beijing’s claim to Taiwan, or should it move in the direction of recognizing what many would regard as reality: that a democratic Taiwan will never freely accept reintegration with the mainland?
I don’t know the answer to that question, even if Hong Kong’s travails under Chinese sovereignty raise doubts. But I’m sure a congratulatory phone call is no way to reformulate a policy with gigantic implications for relations between Beijing and Washington, whose economies will remain locked in an inevitable embrace for decades to come and whose militaries will be competing as well as cooperating worldwide. This may be only the first of many Trump diplomatic maneuvers I doubt, but it is a particularly important one if you look past the phone call.
1. The Defense Economy and American Prosperity | Monday, August 17th | 11:30 | Brookings | REGISTER TO ATTEND | At just over 3 percent of gross domestic product, U.S. military spending totals more than $600 billion annually. A number of recent developments and long-term trends, however-including sequestration and contractor consolidation-threaten the health of the U.S. national security industrial base. The American defense industry is being squeezed on multiple fronts, but just how important is the defense sector to the overall strength of the American economy? Do specific cities or regions have more to worry about than others should defense spending continue to decline? What impact does defense spending have on regional and national job creation and technology innovation? On August 17, the Foreign Policy and Economic Studies programs at Brookings will host a discussion of the American economy and the role that defense industry could play in the nation’s continued recovery and economic health. Panelists include Ben S. Bernanke, Brookings distinguished fellow in residence, and Mark Muro, senior fellow and policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program. Michael O’Hanlon, co-director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, will also participate and moderate the session. Following discussion, the panelists will take audience questions.
2. Assessing Japan-Republic of Korea Relations after Prime Minister Abe’s Anniversary Statement | Tuesday, August 18th | 10:00-11:30 | The Heritage Foundation | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has the potential to either repair or further impair Tokyo’s current strained bilateral relations with Seoul. In recent months, both countries have endeavored to repair the relationship by addressing and compartmentalizing historic issues. But real progress on the nascent rapprochement initiative remains dependent on Abe’s anniversary statement and President Park Geun-hye’s response. Strained relations between two critically important allies is of grave concern to Washington since it hinders U.S. security interests in Asia and constrains effective integrated responses to the North Korean military threat. Questions remain over what role the U.S. can play in helping Japan and the Republic of Korea achieve reconciliation. Speakers include: Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, CSIS, and Associate Professor, Georgetown, Evans J.R. Revere, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings and Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, CFR. Host: Bruce Klingner, Senior Research Fellow, Northeast Asia, Heritage.
3. Examining Arctic Opportunities and Capabilities: Does the U.S. Have the Infrastructure, Ships and Equipment Required? | Tuesday, August 18th | 1:30-3:30 | The Heritage Foundation | REGISTER TO ATTEND | On April 24, 2015 the United States began a two-year term as Chairman of the Arctic Council. The Council is composed of eight Member States: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S. Clearly, the capabilities of these eight countries to operate in the Arctic differ quite significantly. As Arctic opportunities arise, so, too, has the interest of an increasing number of non-Arctic countries. Twelve countries have been deemed Arctic Council “Observers:” the People’s Republic of
China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain. Several of these “Observers” are also actively developing and advancing their potential Arctic operations capability. The United States, under its Chairmanship over the next 20 months, will have numerous policy questions worthy of examination and assessment. Can any Arctic policy be sustained without enduring U.S. capabilities? Does change in the Arctic region encourage other countries to become more actively operational in the area? While the U.S. has the capability to operate around much of the globe, does
it really have a robust ability to be a presence in the Arctic? How might the U.S. better operate side-by-side with Arctic allies? Are Arctic Council “Observer” nations already more capable of Arctic operations than the U.S.? Join us for a most timely and important discussion. Keynote speaker: Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG (Ret.), Special Representative for the Arctic, U.S. Department of State. Host: James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow, The Heritage Foundation. Other speakers include: H.E. Geir
Haarde, Ambassador of Iceland to the United States and former Prime Minister, Isaac Edwards, Senior Counsel for Chairman Murkowski, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Luke Coffey, Margaret Thatcher Fellow, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, The Heritage Foundation. Moderator: James E. Dean, Manager, International and Diplomatic Programs, The Heritage Foundation.
4. China’s Missiles and the Implications for the United States |Wednesday, August 19th | 10:00 – 11:30 | Hudson Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | While China’s ongoing island-building in the South China Sea has garnered headlines, Beijing has quietly continued a ballistic missile modernization program that increasingly threatens U.S. and allied naval vessels—and challenges existing U.S. and allied ballistic missile defense capabilities. The United States is particularly concerned about the development of the DF-21 “carrier killer” that is designed to target U.S. aircraft carriers operating in the Western Pacific. Additionally, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command, Admiral Gortney, confirmed in April that China has deployed three ballistic missile submarines capable of striking the U.S. homeland. On August 19th, Hudson Institute will host five noted experts for a discussion of China’s expanding missile arsenal and the role of that arsenal in Beijing’s broader strategic objectives. Trey Obering, Dean Cheng, Mark Schneider, and Bryan Clark will join Hudson Adjunct Fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs to analyze China’s military capabilities, national strategy, and possible U.S. responses. Speaker: Henry A. “Trey” Obering III, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton. Panelists include: Dean Cheng, Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation, Mark Schneider, Senior Analyst, National Institute for Public Policy, and Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Moderator: Rebeccah Heinrichs, Adjunct Fellow, Hudson Institute.
5. Seeking Security: Georgia Between Russia and ISIS | Wednesday, August 19th | 3:00 – 4:00 | USIP | REGISTER TO ATTEND | As world headlines focus elsewhere, international security remains at risk in Georgia: Russian troops last month continued a creeping seizure of new Georgian territory, including part of a strategic pipeline. ISIS is recruiting fighters throughout the Caucasus for its war in Syria. Georgian Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli, in Washington to meet with top U.S. officials, will make her remarks at USIP August 19. She will discuss how her country is navigating regional security threats that have deepened in the 18 months since Russia attacked Ukraine.
6. US-Israeli Relations After the Iran Deal | Wednesday, August 19th | 6:30-8:30 | Located at Thomson Reuters but sponsored by PS21 | REGISTER TO ATTEND | After July’s historic nuclear deal between the P5+1 great powers and Iran, what is next for relations between the United States and Israel? Moderator: Warren Stroble, Reuters DC diplomatic editor. Panelists: Alexandria Paolozzi, Senate Legislative
Director and Issue Specialist on Israel for Concerned Women for America (CWA). She visited Israel in September 2014 on a Millennial Leaders tour. She has organized Capitol Hill panels on religious freedom in the Middle East, rallies and demonstrations in support of Israel, and has lobbied on pro-Israel policies in the United States Senate. Dr. Guy Ziv is an assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service (SIS), where he teaches courses on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, and international negotiations. He is the author of the Why Hawks Become Doves: Shimon Peres and Foreign Policy Change in Israel. He is founder and director of the Israel National Security Project (INSP), a repository of statements by Israeli security experts concerning the strategic imperative of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ari Ratner is a former State Department official and current PS21 board member.
7. Cyber Risk Wednesday: Hacks, Attacks, and What America Can Do about It | Wednesday, August 19th | 4:00-5:30 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Two months ago, the OPM discovered the biggest breach of US government data in history, described by many as the long-feared “Cyber 9/11”, exposing sensitive information on millions of Americans. While the Obama administration has refrained from publicly attributing the attack, many officials have privately pointed the finger at China. In July, hackers penetrated the Joint Chiefs of Staff email network in what has been described as the “most sophisticated” cyber breach in the history of the US military. Although the investigation is still underway, suspicion has quickly fallen on Russia. And just days ago, news broke about Chinese cyber spies having had access to the private emails of top US officials since at least 2010. In light of the unprecedented scale and scope of these recent data breaches, the Obama administration faces difficult questions: Does political cyber espionage warrant retaliation? Would retaliating effectively deter US cyber adversaries? Or would it further escalate the conflict, especially as the United States itself has been caught spying on other nation states? To answer these questions and suggest a way forward for the US government, this moderated panel discussion brings together recognized cybersecurity and espionage experts Siobhan Gorman, Director at Brunswick’s Washington, DC office; Jason Healey, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative and Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs; and Robert Knake, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow for Cyber Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
8. Taiwan’s China Tangle | Thursday, August 20th | 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm | Stimson | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Taiwan was a symbol of “Free China” during the Cold War era. Democratization and the rise of local identity after the 1990s transformed the nature of the society into an indigenous regime. Under the double pressure of globalization and the rise of China, Taiwan is searching for a new route to cope with increasing domestic and international challenges. This presentation by Stimson’s Visiting Fellow Dr. Tse-Kang Leng will discuss the impact of the “China factor” on Taiwan public opinion toward cross-Strait relations, Taiwan’s economic links with the Mainland, and Taiwan’s strategic positon in a globalizing world. Speaker: Dr. Tse-Kang Leng, Visiting Fellow, East Asia Program, Stimson Center, Research Fellow, Institute of Political Science of Academia Sinica (IPSAS), and Professor of Political Science, National Chengchi University. Moderator: Alan D. Romberg, Distinguished Fellow and Director of the East Asia Program, Stimson.
9. A New Kind of Conflict: Cyber-Security on the Korean Peninsula | Thursday, August 20th | 3:00-5:30 | SAIS- The Bernstein-Offit Building, Room 500 | REGISTER TO ATTEND | ‘A New Kind of Conflict’ is a simulation exploring a cyber-security incident between North and South Korea, with the goal of highlighting the gaps between modern capabilities and international legal frameworks designed to combat cyber-crime. Networking reception with food and drink will follow. Event starts at 3pm, check-in begins at 2:45pm. Seating is limited.
1. Teleconference: Gaza Conflict Resumes After Ceasefire Ends Monday, August 11 | 10:00 am – 11:00 am Wilson Center Teleconference, Toll-free Conference Line: 888-947-9018, Conference Line: 517-308-9006, Passcode: 13304. REGISTER TO ATTEND The breakdown in the 72-hour Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and the resumption of the conflict between Israel and Hamas threatens to take the Gaza crisis to a new level. What are the prospects for escalation and/or for negotiations to de-escalate the situation? Can the requirements of the parties somehow be reconciled? What is the role of the Palestinian Authority and Egypt going forward? And what is the American role? Join the Wilson Center BY PHONE as two veteran analysts of Israeli-Palestinian politics and security strategy discuss these and other issues. SPEAKERS: Jane Harman, President, Wilson Center, Giora Eiland, Former Head of Israel’s National Security Counci, Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and Aaron David Miller, Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar, Wilson Center.
2. Laying the BRICS of a New Global Order: From Yekaterinburg 2009 to eThekwini 2013 Tuesday, August 12 | 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Woodrow Wilson Center; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The meteoric rise of the BRICS group has led to an unprecedented increase in partnership, trade, and investment among some of the world’s most dynamic economies. Yet this increase in cooperation should not be allowed to obscure the complexities and contradictions inherent within this cohort of emerging global actors. The Africa Program invites you to the launch of “Laying the BRICS of a New Global Order,” a book edited by Francis Kornegay, Global Fellow, Wilson Center, with contributions from Paulo Sotero, Director, Brazil Institute as this seminal compilation on the emergence of a new global order is discussed.
3. South China Seas Crisis Negotiation Simulation Tuesday, August 12 | 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm Johns Hopkins SAIS – Bernstein-Offit Building, 1717 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., Room 500 REGISTER TO ATTEND The International Peace and Security Institute will host an interactive simulation exploring the South China Seas Crisis.
4. Holy Icons of Medieval Russia: Reawakening to a Spiritual Past Tuesday, August 12 | 6:45 pm – 8:15 pm Smithsonian Institute, at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Scott Ruby, associate curator of Russian and Eastern European art at Hillwood Museum, examines how the appreciation and understanding of medieval icons developed, as well as some of the aspects of medieval iconography that differentiate it from the work of later centuries. Focusing on the great treasures of the period, Ruby looks at some of the superlative icons of Andre Rublev, a Russian monk who some consider the greatest icon painter. He also discusses how icons function in the context of public and private devotions.
5. Taiwan’s Maritime Security Wednesday, August 13 | 10:30 pm – 12:00 pm Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Taiwan’s security is inextricably linked to the sea. Indeed, the nation’s economic livelihood, as well as its national security, requires that Taipei secure the surrounding waters and have access to global sea-lanes. The Taiwan Strait is a key international waterway, and preserving its stability is in the American interest. Furthermore, per the Taiwan Relations Act, America is legally obligated to help this democratic island provide for its maritime security. Join Heritage as their panelists discuss how Taiwan’s maritime security issues are linked with the continuing East China Sea/South China Sea territorial and political disputes, Chinese naval developments, and U.S. Navy strategy in the Pacific. SPEAKERS: Bernard Cole, Ph.D., Captain, USN (Ret.), and Professor, National War College, Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, and Cortez Cooper, Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND
6. Africa Development Forum Event: A New Strategy for Civil Society Development for Africa Wednesday, August 13 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Center for International Private Enterprise, 1155 15th Street NW, 7th Floor, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND A number of challenges face civil society organizations in developing markets in general and in Africa in particular. Now, however, strategies are emerging to address some of these issues. As part of SID-Washington’s Africa Development Forum, the Civil Society Workgroup will host a panel discussion entitled A New Strategy for Civil Society Development for Africa to examine these new approaches to civil society capacity building and how they should influence development strategies in how to engage and support CSOs. SPEAKERS: Lars Benson, Senior Program Officer for Africa, Center for International Private Enterprise, Jeremy Meadows, Senior Democracy Specialist, Bureau for Africa, USAID, Natalie Ross, Program Officer, Aga Khan Foundation, USA and Richard O’Sullivan (moderator), SID-Washington Civil Society Workgroup co-chair.
7. Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War Wednesday, August 13 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Middle East Institute, 1761 N Street, NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The Middle East Institute hosts Christine Fair, assistant professor of peace and security studies at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, for a discussion of her book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (Oxford University Press, 2014). Based on an unprecedented analysis of decades’ worth of the Pakistan army’s defense publications, Fair concludes that the army’s perception is that its success depends on its resistance to India’s purported drive for regional hegemony and the territorial status quo. Fair argues that because the army is unlikely to abandon these preferences, Pakistan will remain a destabilizing force in world politics for the foreseeable future. Hosted by Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, President, Middle East Institute.
8. U.S.-Korea-Japan Triangle: A Korean Perspective Wednesday, August 13| 10:00 am – 12:45 pm Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Please join CSIS for a special roundtable event with Dr. Park Jin, Chair Professor at the Graduate School of International and Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, to discuss issues in the U.S.-Korea-Japan relationship and South Korean view toward the trilateral cooperation.
9. Inside the World of Diplomacy Thursday, August 14 | 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Smithsonian Institute, at the American Foreign Service Association, 2101 E St NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Members of the U.S. Foreign Service are the face of America in countries around the globe. From ambassadors to embassy staffers, their post s are demanding, important, and often difficult ones. How does someone enter the world of diplomacy—and what do they find there? Take a rare opportunity to get answers from men and women whose careers are spent in diplomatic Washington as you go inside the American Foreign Service Association and the U.S. Department of State.
10. Preventing Violence in the Name of God: The Role of Religion in Diplomacy Thursday, August 14 | 10:00 am – 11:30 am Middle East Institute at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND In his remarks at the launch of the State Department’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, Secretary of State John Kerry admonished, “We ignore the global impact of religion…at our peril,” and told Foreign Service officers “to go out and engage religious leaders and faith-based communities in our day-to-day work.” At a time when religious violence inflames much of the Middle East, the question of how diplomacy and religion can interact takes on high operational importance. What is the Department of State doing to fulfill Secretary Kerry’s instructions? What are the scope and limits of cooperation? These are among the questions to be addressed in presentations by Jerry White (Conflict and Stability Operations, Department of State) and Arsalan Suleman (Organization for the Islamic Conference, Department of State), followed by comments from Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering (former Undersecretary of State). MEI Scholar and retired Foreign Service officer Allen Keiswetter will moderate the panel.
11. Which Poses the Bigger Threat to U.S. National Security—Iran or Non-State Sunni Extremism? Thursday, August 14 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Hudson Institute, 1015 15th Street, N.W. 6th Floor, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The Administration’s current policies throughout the region suggest that the White House no longer sees Iran as the key problem. Rather, it views the clerical regime as a potential partner, particularly when it comes to combating Sunni extremists like al Qaeda and ISIS. The Iranian regime, while problematic, represents a real nation-state and rational actor that looks out for its interests and responds to incentives—which is not the case for non-state actors. The White House has re-prioritized American strategy in the Middle East, with groups like al Qaeda and ISIS—rather than Iran—seen as the key threat to American interests. The question is whether the Obama administration has got it right. And if it’s wrong, what are the likely consequences? Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Lee Smith will moderate an expert panel featuring Michael Doran, Hillel Fradkin, and Brian Katulis to discuss whether non-state Sunni extremism or Iran constitutes the major strategic threat to American interests in the region.
12. They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide Thursday, August 14, 2014 | 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Starting in early 1915, the Ottoman Turks began deporting and killing hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the first major genocide of the twentieth century. By the end of the First World War, the number of Armenians in what would become Turkey had been reduced by ninety percent—more than a million people. A century later, the Armenian Genocide remains controversial but relatively unknown, overshadowed by later slaughters and the chasm separating Turkish and Armenian versions of events. In this definitive narrative history, Professor Ronald Suny cuts through nationalist myths, propaganda, and denial to provide an unmatched account of when, how, and why the atrocities of 1915–1916 were committed.Drawing on archival documents and eyewitness accounts, Professor Suny’s book is a vivid and unforgettable chronicle of a cataclysm that set a tragic pattern for a century of genocide and crimes against humanity.
After a week of Thanksgiving festivities, here are this week’s top events:
1. CHP’s Vision for Turkey: An Address by Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu
Monday, December 2 | 11:30am – 1:00pm
Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW
On December 2, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings will host Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), for an address on Turkey, its foreign policy and its relations with the United States. In his remarks, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu will offer CHP’s vision for the future of Turkey with a particular focus on Turkish democracy and economics. He will also reflect on Turkey’s role in its neighborhood and offer thoughts on its transatlantic relations.
Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu has served as the chair of the Republican People’s Party since May 2010. He was first elected in 2002 as a member of the Turkish Parliament for the Istanbul province. He was reelected as an MP in 2007 and served as CHP’s Group Vice President until declaring his candidacy for the leadership of the party. Prior to his political career, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu served in numerous high-ranking positions in the Turkish Ministry of Finance and the Social Security Organization.
Senior Fellow Ted Piccone, acting vice president and director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, will introduce Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu. At the conclusion of his remarks, Brookings TUSIAD Senior Fellow Kemal Kirişci will moderate the discussion. After the program, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu will take audience questions.
Acting Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy
The Brookings Institution
TUSIAD Senior Fellow and Director, Turkey Project
The Brookings Institution
Republican People’s Party
Apologies for the late posting (DPS):
The upcoming week’s top events:
1. Responding to the Rebalance: ASEAN between China and the US
Monday, November 4 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm
East-West Center, Sixth Floor Conference Room, 1819 L Street NW
An Asia-Pacific Security Seminar featuring:
Mr. Julio Amador III
2013 Asia Studies Visiting Fellow, East-West Center in Washington
Foreign Affairs Research Specialist, Philippines’ Foreign Service Institute
Dr. Charmaine Misalucha (Discussant)
Assistant Professor, De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines
The rebalancing of the United States to Asia in an effort to stem China’s surge in regional leadership has placed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in a difficult position. While ASEAN recognizes China as one of its most important Dialogue Partners, the regional association’s members have always recognized that the US plays a special role in the Asia Pacific as the guarantor of security. Meanwhile, China and the US are set on a rivalry that, while not officially acknowledged, is apparent to observers in Southeast Asia. Within this context, how is ASEAN as a regional organization dealing with Chinese-American rivalry?
Mr. Julio Amador III will describe regional perspectives about the direction of ASEAN in the context of the US Rebalance. He will discuss the tensions in the South China Sea as the backdrop for the rivalry between China and the US, and ASEAN’s subsequent attempts at autonomy in settling the issue. He will also assess ASEAN’s internal dynamics and describe how member-states attempt to form a regional consensus while maintaining their national strategic interests. While China and the US contend for primacy in the region, ASEAN still has a role to play, but only if it is willing to move beyond the narrow strategic limits set by its member states.
This program will be off-the-record; thank you for your cooperation.
A light luncheon will be served.
Julio Amador III is an Asia Studies Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and a Fulbright Scholar at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. He is on leave as a Foreign Affairs Research Specialist at the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) of the Philippines’ Foreign Service Institute. He provides policy analysis and strategic advice on ASEAN issues, Southeast Asia security and international relations, and foreign policy to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Amador has held numerous fellowships in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
Dr. Charmaine Misalucha is currently a US-ASEAN Fulbright Fellow in the School of International Service of American University. She is also an Assistant Professor at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines, specializing international relations, security studies, and the arms trade. She received her PhD in International Relations from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Jonas Brown continues his report on an all day conference last week at the Carnegie Endowment:
The third panel discussed cross-strait relations in a regional context. Yann-Huei Song, a research fellow at Academia Sinica in Taiwan, highlighted the complexity of Taiwan’s position in the region. Taipei must negotiate tense multilateral conflicts in the East and South China Seas while simultaneously maintaining a pro-U.S. orientation and developing delicate cross-strait ties with Beijing. He suggested that President Ma’s East China Sea peace initiative could be applied in the South China Sea and that Taiwan’s role in ICAO and other international organizations provide a precedent for Taipei’s participation in devising a South China Sea code of conduct.
Chyungly Lee, research fellow at the Institute of International Relations and professor at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, observed that American “rebalancing” had succeeded in strengthening regional organizations in the Asia-Pacific, leading to more action-oriented coordination between states, with a particular increase in functional security cooperation. This trend has benefitted the entire region as well as the US, suggesting that greater participation by Taiwan in regional organizations and agreements would only enhance these benefits.
Michael Auslin, director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said that a paradigm-shift has occurred in cross-strait relations since the end of the Cold War. Cross-strait relations were initially the focus of US interests in the region and a key rationale for the “Asia pivot,” but cross-strait rapprochement has brought Taipei into the mainstream of regional politics. Ma’s approach to Beijing resembles that of other regional leaders: defusing tensions while also attempting to maintain a balance of power. Regional dynamics—not the US role—are now the central factor influencing cross-strait relations.
Renmin University professor Canrong Jin emphasized Beijing’s satisfaction and optimism regarding both cross-strait relations and China’s role in the region. With the exception of China’s dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, a sense of calm and promise pervades in Beijing, despite a widely held, anxious perception that right-wing nationalism is on the rise in Japan. Anxiety about American “rebalancing” has eased because U.S.-Russia relations and the struggling U.S. economy are both viewed as checks on American assertiveness in Asia.
Commentator Michael Swaine, senior associate at CEIP, questioned the tendency by many observers to view cross-strait relations as an indicator of Chinese and American positions on other issues. He noted in particular the—in his view—unsubstantiated talk about risk to US credibility in the region should the US shift its position on cross-strait relations or the East/South China Sea territorial disputes. This line of reasoning reminds him of Vietnam War-era domino thinking. More highly nuanced, contextualized scholarship is needed in this area, Swaine said.
The fourth panel covered “Domestic Developments in Mainland China.” Chih-Chieh Chou, a professor at National Cheng Kung University, outlined the dilemmas faced by the current government as it tries to maintain stability while enacting the political reforms necessary to transition to an innovation-based economy. Chou expressed cautious optimism about China’s macroeconomic growth and political reform. He noted areas of progress, such as the growing space for civil society activity, but also acknowledged daunting challenges, including the urban-rural gap, high income inequality, lack of government transparency, and tight government control over resources.
Chung-Min Tsai, a political science professor at National Chengchi University, said it is still too early to assess Xi’s leadership. He questioned the usefulness of Xi’s “Chinese Dream:” Will it lead to concrete, widespread improvement in quality of life, or to is it an empty government fantasy that will simply highlight the chasm between the Chinese people and their government? In an analysis of China’s political and economic trajectory much less optimistic than Chou’s, George Washington University professor David Shambaugh described a sclerotic political system, with no evidence of meaningful political reform and little sign of a successful transition toward an innovation-based economy. He agreed with Tsai that the “Chinese Dream” is an “empty vessel” but suggested that its open-endedness could be positive, allowing for a bottom-up interpretation by China’s intellectual community.
Fan Li, director of the World and China Institute in Beijing, observed steps toward economic liberalization under Xi—including the creation of the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone and greater freedom for private businesses—but contrasted this economic progress with the absence of political reform cited by Shambaugh.
Commentator Kenneth Lieberthal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, reemphasized the fundamental contradiction between recent attempts to both strengthen the private sector and centralize political power. Recognizing the complexity of his domestic challenges, Xi has made de-escalation of tensions with the U.S. the touchstone of his foreign policy, so that he can concentrate on consolidating his personal control and revivifying the Communist Party.