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

Scholarly Spotlight: Dr. Daniel Twining on the Pivot

From our 12 March LDESP Asia-Pacific News Update.


Occasionally, we highlight the work of an LDESP faculty member. Dr. Daniel Twining, who teaches as seminars related to Asia-Pacific, 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 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.

Recently, he has published several articles with a long-range focus on East Asian security. Excerpts below:

Asia’s Pivotal Power

A resurgent Asian nation has just elevated hawkish nationalists to the pinnacle of power. Its maritime conflicts with neighbors raise the risk of military confrontation along key corridors of world trade. Memories of past national greatness infuse officials with a determination to compete for regional leadership. The country’s re-emergence could rewrite the geopolitical map of Asia. No, it’s not China. Japan is set to surprise the world and change its region if it can reverse the economic decline that has led many to write off its influence. It’s true that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sworn in on 26 December 2012, confronts problems that make those of other leaders look mild by comparison. Japan has one of the oldest populations on earth, the effects of the tsunami and nuclear crisis of 2011 linger, its politics have been plagued by gridlock, and it is subject to growing challenges from a confident China. Some Americans, viewing China as Asia’s future and Japan as its past, consider the alliance with Tokyo as anachronistic—or even a liability in a transformed world. But it would be a mistake to write off Japan as a friend. It remains America’s strongest ally in Asia, with world-class capabilities that make it a serious player in the global balance of power. Tokyo has worked creatively to forge new strategic relationships that could reshape its region. The emerging debate over national identity will drive the country’s evolution from pacifism toward a more assertive regional posture. Surprisingly, the basis of Japan’s resilience is its economy. (…) One of the world’s top foreign aid donors, Japan has pledged $5 billion to help rebuild Iraq and another $7 billion for Afghanistan, where it is the largest donor after America. It has taken the lead in helping Burma reconstruct infrastructure and human resources frayed by decades of neglect. It offers bases and generous host-nation support to nearly 50,000 U.S. forces who serve as a linchpin of security in East Asia. Japan has also built up its military power. It often goes unacknowledged, but the country boasts a technologically sophisticated military capable of working closely with American forces across a range of missions. Japan spends more on defense than all but four countries; its navy is the most capable of any U.S. ally and it possesses superior missile defenses. Its qualitative military capabilities surpass those of China in several areas. In a breakout from longstanding restraints, Japan is increasingly wielding that military power. In the last decade, the country has refueled warships in the Indian Ocean to support the war in Afghanistan, deployed troops to Iraq, participated in the tsunami recovery mission in Indonesia, sent officers to police a ceasefire in Nepal, exercised with the Indian, Australian, Korean, and American navies, participated in the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti, and dispatched naval vessels off Somalia for anti-piracy operations. (Wall Street Journal)

Global Trends 2030: Scenarios for Asia’s Strategic Future

The National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) just-released Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds report identifies key meta-trends that will shape the future international system, including the explosion of the global middle class, the diffusion of power away from the West, and the rising likelihood of inter-state conflict. In no other region will these trends play a more decisive role than in Asia, where the NIC predicts China to emerge as the world’s largest economy, India to become the biggest driver of middle-class growth on Earth, and conflict scenarios between a number of rising and established powers likely to put regional peace at risk. In no other region will the future of U.S. leadership in the international system be more decisively tested than in an Asia featuring rising giants like India and Indonesia, a fully emerged peer competitor in China, and the dramatic tilt in the international economy’s center of gravity from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific. What kind of role Asia will play in the world, and how it will relate to the United States and other Western powers, in turn will be determined by what form of regional order is operative in 2030. My last post described four broad pathways Asia could take over the next two decades. This one sketches out a more granular set of scenarios for Asia’s future, identifying seven distinct possibilities that could emerge by 2030. That there are these many pathways demonstrates how unsettled regional power dynamics are — and how much uncertainty remains around China’s trajectory, U.S. staying power, Japan’s strategic re-emergence, and the nature of Asian regionalism.

Headline scenarios for Asia in 2030 include: a fluid multipolarity driven by the rise of multiple strong states, with an extra-regional United States as primus inter pares; a Concert of Asia; a New Asian Cold War; a Sino-American G2 condominium; and a New Middle Kingdom. (Foreign Policy)

China’s Overreach, America’s Opportunity

Asian states have reacted to China’s rise in several ways. They have deepened economic integration with China in order to benefit from its economic dynamism. Simultaneously, however, they have offset their economic dependence on China by strengthening military and diplomatic ties with each other and the United States. More recently, Asian states and companies have pursued an economic diversification strategy that aims to balance economic ties to China with deeper trade and investment links to other rising Asian economies, including India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. These changes have provided new and significant strategic opportunities for the United States in Asia. (…)

Japan drifts back into the fold

These and other moves suggested a striking shift in Japan’s geopolitical alignment. But Beijing missed its opportunity to drive a lasting wedge between the United States and Japan. China’s aggressiveness against Japan since 2010, including a number of maritime confrontations inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone and around the Japanese-held Senkaku islands, an embargo on rare-earth exports to Japan, and rising anti-Japanese nationalism in China, has led Japan to revert back to—and indeed reinforce—its alliance with the United States. Within Japanese politics, China hawks like the DPJ government’s Minister for National Policy, Seiji Maehara, and new LDP leader Shinzo Abe are ascendant, and Japanese public opinion has become more hostile towards China as a result of its bullying. In response to China’s growing power and assertiveness, Japan has focused not only on strengthening its U.S. alliance, but on deepening its security and diplomatic partnerships in Asia as well. (…)

India’s ascendance

Since the end of the Cold War, India has re-emerged as a pan-Asian power. It did not have such a profile from 1947-1991, due to the structural constraints imposed by the U.S.-Soviet global rivalry, India’s pursuit of non-alignment, and internal development and security challenges. But the end of the Cold War, economic reforms launched in 1991, the demise of nonalignment, and transformational economic growth since then have expanded India’s strategic horizons. A rising, confident India today is returning to its roots as a wider Asian power, harking back not only to the Raj but to an earlier era when Indian trading and cultural networks tied together a vast region stretching from the Persian Gulf and East Africa to Indonesia. (…)

 A shift in Southeast Asia

The growing wariness of Chinese power and penetration now being evinced by Southeast Asian states has created considerable possibilities for American policy. These states cannot balance China by themselves, or even in combination; for that, they need to pull in countervailing great powers by aligning more closely with the United States as well as U.S. security partners like India and Japan. Political and historical sensitivities mean that this must often be done quietly, and outside of formal alliance structures. But Southeast Asia’s growing economic dependence on China should not be confused with political kowtowing; regional nations have moved closer to the United States and its security partners even as they have become more enmeshed economically with China. There should be no doubt that key Southeast Asian states, including traditional allies like the Philippines and non-traditional partners like Vietnam, seek active and sustained American support for their security and autonomy vis-à-vis Beijing. In this sense, their objectives dovetail with the U.S. interest in supporting a pluralism of power in Asia. (…) (American Foreign Policy Council Defense Dossier)


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