Expert Voices in 2020
Asia expertise on critical issues at a crucial time
At a time when power, risk, and opportunity are concentrating in Asia, your support enables NBR to tackle critical issues that the United States’ leaders need to understand—because the decisions they make matter and the stakes are high. Please consider a gift to support NBR’s work at this crucial point in U.S. policy toward Asia. Your online support is welcome during this important time.
Covid-19 has ushered in a very different near future than the one any of us might have imagined at the start of 2020. Even as our NBR staff and experts have continued with the research agenda established prior to the pandemic, we have also quickly pivoted to address emerging issues and reflect on the shape of a post-pandemic world. As NBR founding president Kenneth B. Pyle noted in his essay for the New Normal in Asia series, the pandemic’s effects will likely be catalytic, “speeding up and intensifying the other motive forces that predated it.”
I would like to share just a few highlights from the first six months of 2020:
- In January, we published a report from the project China’s Vision for a New Regional and Global Order and marked the release of Strategic Asia 2020: U.S.-China Competition for Global Influence with an event that included a keynote address by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Heino Klinck.
- In early March, NBR hosted a breakfast discussion with Ambassador Virginia Palmer, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources, Department of State. With support from the Japanese Consulate General in Seattle, the Shalikashvili Chair in National Security Studies held a roundtable on strengthening U.S.-Japan coordination to address challenges posed by China in the East China Sea. An NBR delegation traveled to Australia to convene a training workshop with Australian Department of Defence staff, conduct private briefings and public presentations on Strategic Asia findings, and meet with officials and experts. NBR also advised the committee staff of Rep. Ami Bera, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, in preparation for a hearing on the U.S. and international response to the spread of the coronavirus. We also launched the Chairman’s Council forum to engage with leaders in an exclusive, off-the-record-context.
- In April, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun addressed the NBR Board of Directors and Chairman’s Council to provide an update on administration policy.
- In May, I advised Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a small-group discussion on security responses to challenges in the Indo-Pacific. Also in May, Nadège Rolland counseled a senior advisor to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on developments related to China and was one of two speakers to brief the U.S. House of Representatives China Task Force, led by Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Mike McCaul.
- In June, NBR hosted a virtual event in partnership with the ROK Consulate General in Seattle on U.S.-Korea relations, at which Deputy Assistant Secretary Marc Knapper provided keynote remarks. Also in June, NBR announced the 2020–21 Asia EDGE Fellows for the first year of a three-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. State Department. NBR’s Asia EDGE project will support the professional development of the next generation of energy specialists in South and Southeast Asia.
Following this letter is a gallery of expert quotes from publications, interviews, events, and testimony over the past six months. I invite you to take a moment to read our expert voices on key issues such as trade and innovation, China’s vision for a new order, U.S.-China competition, Indo-Pacific policy, alliance dynamics, maritime security, and energy and the environment.
As 2020 continues:
- NBR is leading a major new research initiative—Emerging Technologies for Securing Supply Chains. The initiative will investigate the potential of technologies such AI and blockchain to strengthen corporate supply chain security and make recommendations on options for leveraging technologies to resolve key challenges.
- Our Digital Balancing Act project is bringing together experts on topics such as data security in 5G networks, public health data, and the role of digital trade agreements in data governance to provide an in-depth analysis on the complex and ever-evolving question of global governance.
- The annual People’s Liberation Army Conference will be hosted in October by NBR, in partnership with the U.S. Army War College and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
- The new project Responding to Challenges Posed by Chinese Hybrid Warfare Operations in the East China Sea will examine China’s increasingly complex tactics in the East China Sea, particularly coercive methods that blur the boundaries between wartime and peacetime operations. The project aims to improve U.S. and Japanese understanding of these challenges and enable the allies to develop strategies and tactics to adequately respond.
- We will continue a robust publishing schedule that includes the release of the July and October issues of Asia Policy, an NBR Special Report on disinformation in Taiwan, and the 2020 Energy Security Report on Southeast Asia’s electricity and sustainability needs, the topic of the program’s July workshop. We will also be expanding and diversifying the New Normal in Asia series to give younger scholars and analysts from both the United States and Asia a prominent platform to respond to the potential changes in the region and to shape the public debate about the future.
Your gift will support our mission to help decision-makers better understand Asia and craft actionable policies toward the region and our commitment to investing in the future by training the next generation of Asia specialists. Please make an impact with your generous gift today.
President, The National Bureau of Asian Research
THE NEW NORMAL IN ASIA
“A second huge question for the post-pandemic world concerns China: more specifically, how will the rest of the international community treat this increasingly powerful but intrinsically problematic state?”
Nicholas Eberstadt (The New Normal in Asia, April 2020)
“The pandemic appears to be accelerating China’s ascent, hastening U.S. decline, escalating Sino-U.S. tensions, and narrowing the strategic options for Southeast Asia’s small and middle powers.”
Ann Marie Murphy (The New Normal in Asia, June 2020)
“Policymakers should also take advantage of this clarifying moment to hammer out a greater shared understanding with U.S. allies of the challenge posed by China and a more coordinated approach to dealing with at least some of its numerous dimensions.”
Aaron L. Friedberg (The New Normal in Asia, May 2020)
“The U.S. government underestimated the staying power of the Chinese Communist Party, which has led to an increasingly totalitarian regime.”
Matt Pottinger (Virtual Event, May 2020)
“We are still in the very early stages so it is challenging to be able to identify long-term impacts, but Southeast Asian leaders believe this economic crisis will be deeper than the 1997 Asian financial crisis. In 1997, the blame was laid on the doorsteps of leaders in power at the time, but with Covid-19 it is viewed to be more external and blame cannot be quite as easily attributed.”
Meredith Miller (Virtual Event, April 2020)
“There are three pillars of American security: keeping America running, keeping America strong, and safeguarding America’s assets.”
Keith Krach (Virtual Event, June 2020)
CENTER FOR INNOVATION, TRADE, & STRATEGY
“South Korea cannot afford to act alone. Instead, it should consider expanding researcher exchanges, information sharing, and joint initiatives with other countries to support regional interoperability in both product development and the coordination of governance standards. As part of these efforts, strengthening coordination with the United States could also play a meaningful role in advancing both countries’ interests.”
Clara Gillispie (NBR Special Report, May 2020)
“If U.S. policymakers want to bring pharmaceutical supply chains back to the United States, we must also adopt the necessary regulatory and—in particular—environmental standards that made China the better place for these industries to move to several decades ago.”
Benjamin Shobert (Interview, April 2020)
“International critiques of the dollar’s reserve currency status are not new. What distinguishes recent expressions from those of past generations? The availability of alternatives in rival currencies and new technologies combined with the concerted actions among adversaries and allies alike to establish non–dollar based alternative infrastructures and international financial arrangements.”
Richard Dzina (Commentary, January 2020)
“China’s ten-year effort to blunt U.S. financial power is now merging with its hopes for building its own financial power. Although the position of the dollar benefits from the United States’ rule of law, strong institutions, and deep and liquid capital markets, there are ways that China could circumvent some aspects of U.S. financial leverage as well as promote its own currency at the regional level.”
Rush Doshi (Commentary, January 2020)
China’s Vision for a New Regional and Global Order
“Taken together, the party’s official pronouncements and Chinese intellectuals’ commentaries form a relatively coherent structure that points to the direction Beijing would like to take and allow outside observers to glimpse a vision that is being carefully crafted and constantly refined.”
Nadège Rolland (NBR Special Report, January 2020)
“[N]ew waves of area studies in China are to a large extent policy-driven. The Chinese government hopes that greater investment in the field will serve the needs of the country’s major initiatives, most recently BRI.”
Ren Xiao (NBR Special Report, June 2020)
“Congress should encourage and support institutions and individuals engaged in conducting basic research on contemporary China and in training a rising generation of analysts able to exploit open-source material in the Chinese language. Properly analyzed, such material gives tremendous insights into the thinking of Chinese elites.”
Nadège Rolland (Testimony, April 2020)
U.S.-CHINA RIVALRY, ALLIANCE DYNAMICS, & INDO-PACIFIC POLICY
“[T]he broad strategy that Washington should pursue must focus less on pushing China down than on keeping the United States well ahead.”
Ashley J. Tellis (Strategic Asia, January 2020)
“The U.S. must increase its attractiveness as an economic partner and investment base for Taiwanese firms that may otherwise feel that they have no choice but to work more closely with China as it becomes the world’s largest economy and the center of global supply chains.”
Syaru Shirley Lina (Strategic Asia, January 2020)
“A strategy that focuses on strengthening U.S. relations with Indo-Pacific democracies and making those countries stronger and more secure, therefore, is consistent both with the principles on which the United States is based and with its strategic interests.”
Roger Cliff (NBR Special Report, June 2020)
THE MARITIME DOMAIN
“Although [Malaysia’s] ties with the U.S. remain strong, U.S. policy is perceived as being overly militarized and based primarily on conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. Despite U.S. pressure, Malaysia is largely embracing China’s institutions and regional development architecture.”
Zachary Abuza (Asia Policy, April 2020)
“New Delhi is not impervious either to the threat China poses to trade flows in the region or to its significant challenges to Indian energy and strategic interests. Access to the major waterways in Southeast Asia is an important consideration for Indian policymakers, as is the need to build capacity in member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).”
Abhijit Singh (Commentary, May 2020
“Most of the world’s attention is focused on the nuclear threat…however, it is very important to look at these maritime issues as well because they are…very narrowly focused on shaping and influencing North Korea’s relationship and negotiations with South Korea.”
Jean Lee (Virtual Event, March 2020)
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
“Developing Asia and China will be key to real progress on reducing carbon emissions. But China and the rest of the region seem utterly preoccupied with managing the health, economic, and potential political crises caused by the pandemic and, like the United States, have prioritized economic recovery.”
Mikkal E. Herberg (Essay, May 2020)
“Nuclear power will likely contribute to [South Korea’s] electricity generation for the foreseeable future on account of the industry’s characteristics–the relative youth of the reactor fleet, the costs of early decommissioning, and the lack of alternatives in electricity generation, among others–and the political and economic tradeoffs that a significant drawdown would entail.”
Lindsay Rand and Jonas Siegel (Asia Policy, January 2020)
“Good alliances are adaptive, flexible, and contain breathing room that allows them to think creatively about how to best prepare for contingencies. The United States and Australia already have such an alliance on energy cooperation. But taking this to new heights as part of a strategy truly focused on the Indo-Pacific will require greater commitment.”
Clara Gillispie (Brief, January 2020)
CYBERSECURITY & SPACE