Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

Topic Debate: China’s Rise

Background: LDESP hosted a faculty discussion on the rise of China at a seminar on the Pacific on 9 May 2012. The following question was posed to faculty:

Is China’s rise a force for stability and order in Asia or a threat in the region?”

Dr. Daniel Twining, Senior Fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, argued:

“Whether China threatens or reinforces Asia’s existing order is up to China, and the United States can only influence China’s internal debate on the margins.  What the United States can do, however, is shape a regional balance of power and values that reinforces China’s focus on its “peaceful rise” and deters those within China who want to forcibly overturn the existing order.  More people in Asia live under democracy than in any other region; every other major Asian power is an ally or partner of the United States.  Every major power in Asia has moved closer to Washington to hedge against the danger of overweening Chinese influence, even as they pursue fruitful economic ties with their giant neighbor.  The growing demand for US leadership in Asia — even as China grows more powerful — suggests that, if the United States remains engaged and makes the right choices on defense spending and economic leadership, it will have many partners with which it can work to sustain liberal order in Asia, helping to encourage China to make the right choices for its people and its region.”

Dr. David Kang, Professor of International Relations and Business at the University of Southern California, offered  a different perspective:

“The view about China from the region is not necessarily the same view that we have in the United States. Many countries in the region do not want to be caught in between an intensifying cold war between the US and China. These countries — while not entirely comfortable yet with what China wants and the role it will play in the region — also see little advantage in isolating or containing China. Although many countries in the region have not yet resolved troubling historical and maritime disputes, few countries see China as a direct military threat to their existence. The region is changing rapidly, with all countries becoming more closely tied through economic flows, cultural and population interactions, and the expansion of regional institutions such as the Chiang Mai initiative. As a result, the U.S. presence is a welcome stabilizer, but the goal is to craft stability with China deeply integrated in the region, not isolate and contain China outside regional interactions. Given these changes, countries in the region want both the US and China to play a positive role, and their worst fear is being forced to choose sides between two superpowers.


To continue to learn more about China’s role in the region, please review the publications of Dr. Twining and Dr. Kang on the issue.

Dr. Daniel Twining is Senior Fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). He is also a consultant to the U.S. government on international security affairs. He recently published two articles on China: “A China Policy Primer for Xi Jigping’s Visit,” in Foreign Policy Magazine and  “The Chinese Military’s Great Leap Forward,” in Real Clear World.

He previously served as a Member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, as Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator John McCain, and as a staff member of the United States Trade Representative. He holds a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, an MPhil with distinction in East Asian international relations from Oxford, and a BA with highest distinction from the University of Virginia. Dr. Twining is a regular contributor to Foreign Policy and the Weekly Standard and has written for the Washington Post, Financial Times, Times of India, Newsweek, the Washington Quarterly, and elsewhere, as well as in a range of academic journals and monographs. He is currently writing a book on U.S. grand strategy in Asia after the Cold War. He has lived in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Africa.

Dr. David Kang is Professor of International Relations and Business at the University of Southern California, with appointments in both the School of International Relations and the Marshall School of Business. At USC he is also director of the Korean Studies Institute. Kang’s latest book East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute (Columbia University Press, 2010) explores the historical international relations of East Asia. He is also author of “China Rising: Peace, Power, and Order in East Asia” (Columbia University Press, 2007) as well as other lauded works on East Asia.

Kang has published numerous scholarly articles in journals such as International Organization and International Security, and his co-authored article “Testing Balance of Power Theory in World History” was awarded “Best article, 2007-2009,” by the European Journal of International Relations. He received an A.B. with honors from Stanford University and his Ph.D. from Berkeley.

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