“National Security Challenges Posed by China’s Rise” by Charles Glaser

“National Security Challenges Posed by China’s Rise” by Charles Glaser

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– Welcome. Thank you for coming this afternoon to hear Professor Glaser. Charles Glaser, who’s visiting the Department of Government this term as the Roth Family
Distinguished Visitor here at Dartmouth College. We’re delighted to have you, Charlie. And today, as you can see,
Professor Glaser’s going to be speaking on security challenges posed by the rise of China. You might have noticed
in your morning perusal of “The New York Times” that China, it was reported this morning
in “The New York Times” that China’s taken out a
75-year renewable lease on Tulagi, the island of Tulagi, which has 1,000 people living on it. It’s one of the Solomon Islands, and apparently it was considered a gem, a military gem in World War II because of it’s natural deep water harbor. And it had, up until about a month ago, the Solomon Islands were allied, well, in the sort of American, under the American
umbrella, you could say. And they were connected,
they recognized Taiwan. They arrested their relations with Taiwan as of about September 15th,
and recognized Beijing. So something’s changing. And “The New York Times”
this morning reports that American officials are alarmed. At least some American
officials are alarmed by this. And they think that the
Solomon Islands are crucial to keep China in check. So it’s in America’s
national security interest to kind of defend the status quo in Asia. Or should we accommodate
China’s geopolitical interest as it rises? This is the central question
for American decision-makers, for citizens who are trying to understand how the United States
should defend its interests and advance its interests,
protect its interests in the face of the rise of China. And so to help us understand that, I think there’s really nobody better who we could listen to
today than Professor Glaser. That’s one of the reasons
we’re really delighted you’re here today to talk to us, Charlie. And also, I hear, all year. To hang out, meet students,
connect with faculty. Professor Glaser is a professor at George Washington University, where he’s a professor
of political science, and also has been the founding Director of the Institute for Security
and Conflict Studies. He’s the author of “The Rational Theory
of International Politics “and the Logic of
Competition and Cooperation”. As I understand these things, and I took exactly one semester
of international relations. I’ve been doing a damage with
that one semester ever since. Professor Glaser’s a realist, and he explains certain features, or maybe most features of
the international world with reference to what countries do to protect and advance their own interest, as opposed to those who are inclined to explain the world in
terms of maybe moral norms that arise as part of the
liberal international order. I don’t really want to
pigeon you, hole you, ’cause I like I said, exactly
one semester of background in this, and the very contrast might be a little bit too clumsy. But I do think there are very few things that are more vital to understand. Not for just specialists, and not just for decision-makers,
but for citizens. And so for that purpose,
really, I’m just delighted to welcome you, Charlie, to welcome you to Dartmouth,
to the Department of Government and to this lecture hall this afternoon. Thank you.
(audience applauding) – Thank you. I’d like to begin by thanking
Dartmouth for having here here this year. It’s great being on sabbatical in general, it’s even better being here at Dartmouth, which is known for its great
International Relations group. And it’s really special to the
be the Roth visiting scholar. So with all that, thank you. I’m going to talk today about
a book that I’m going to be working on this year, that I’ve worked on pieces of already, and many new pieces to be
accomplished while I’m here. So I’m going to start with an overview. I decided to trade breadth for depth, so I’m going to give you an idea of what I think the key questions are, how I would go about thinking about them, and not give as many answers. Usually you give a talk and you start from the beginning, you’re sort of working toward a conclusion
that you want to defend. I’m not going to defend, I’m not
going to make many conclusions or defend any, and in
fact, maybe the questions I’m going to study in this
project, I think, are quite hard. I can argue either side pretty well. Maybe we’ll get into some of that in the question and answers. So here’s what I’m going to do today. I’m going to give some background, and we have quite a range
of individuals here today. So some of you probably
know a lot about China, some of you may not know so much, so I’ll give some basic background. Then I’m going to frame
the project itself, I’m going to identify six questions that I think are essential for
the United States to answer, starting at a very high level and then working down to
rather specific questions. I’m going to talk about the role of international relations theory and of uncertainty in
answering these questions and explaining, not only
for the sake of students and for the faculty that are here to reassure ourselves that
international relations theory is valuable, but in fact, actually to show why you really need to use it to analyze some of the questions I’m going
to put on the table today. And I’m going to sketch the analysis of a couple of the key questions
that I put on the table. So I want to talk about grand strategy, which is where we should
be in the world, and why, and whether we should stay
involved in east Asia. I’m going to talk about
whether we should maintain our commitment to Taiwan. And if time allows, I may talk
about US nuclear strategy. But I have a feeling I won’t get there. But I made slides for it just in case. So let me start by saying
we’re at a turning point in US policy toward China. So if you read this quote, this is from an official 2018 US document, The National Defense Strategy. And it says that security,
“US prosperity and security “is the reemergence of a
long-term strategic competition “by revisionist powers.” That’s the central challenge we face. So from 1990, basically
until 10 years ago, we didn’t worry much about
major power competition. The Cold War ended, the United States was a dominant power, we were worried about, first, Civil War, then terrorism. China’s rise, and to some extent, changes in Russian policy,
although Russia’s declining, have redefined the US security agenda. I think this is a very succinct statement of how the US official
government now sees that China “will continue to pursue
military modernization programs “that seek Indo-Pacific regional hegemony “in the near-term, and
displacement of the United States to achieve global
preeminence in the future.” Regional hegemony would be essentially pushing the United States
out, one way or another, out of East Asia. And so this is a very strong position. It’s relatively new. It was not the position of
the Obama Administration, although I think that
much of the US experience during the Obama
Administration was leading in this direction, and now many people who were officials in
the Obama Administration have come to take this view. But it’s important for us to realize that it’s not a full consensus. And a number of scholars
think that the pendulum has swung too far. We need to update our view of China, but it’s gone too far. So in a recent article,
or a recent letter, open letter that was published
in “The Washington Post”, 100 experts both on China
and US foreign policy signed a letter that made
the following key points. I’m not going to read
all of it, but it says, among other things, that
they believe US actions are contributing to a downward spiral. So it’s not only that China is an increasingly difficult country, but we’re contributing to that. That the current US approach
under the Trump Administration is fundamentally counterproductive. That they believe Beijing
is not an economic enemy or an existential national
threat to US security, which is a very different flavor. Maybe not in direct contradiction to the defense strategy
statement, but close to it. And then putting out here, just to put things in perspective
that even though China is growing tremendously in capability, that it’s decades off before it becomes a real global military power. And the only current global military power being the United States. So one thing going into this discussion or analysis of China is
to realize the people who know China extremely well don’t agree about the nature of the country
that’s posing the challenge. I should also say, I’m not a China expert in the sense of having studied
the country over decades, and I don’t speak the language. I bring this sort of lens, hopefully, of a very good policy
analyst and a good theorist, and can learn enough about China from people that really are experts that tackle these questions. But there are many people
that spent their lives and careers studying China
in a very nuanced way. So a little background to start with. Even though there’s a lot of disagreement, I would say on many points, and just for starting our discussion, the number of key points that
we can put on the table that, in broad terms, there’s agreement on, even there, I’ll explain
some disagreement. So first, there’s been
extraordinary economic and technological development in China over the last three or four decades. So we look at these charts, the one I get which is on
your left, is GDP comparison. And you can see how China
went from very little, to now, still far behind
the United States, but tremendous growth
relative to the United States. The chart on your right actually looks at purchasing power parody. So if you actually think
of what you can buy with, turns out GDP is a very
complicated concept. If you look at what you can buy with it, China actually now exceeds the US in GDP, and crossed sort of a few years ago. Now, it’s not clear what any
of these tell us, exactly, except that China is now
either the largest economy or the second largest economy, globally, having gone from a very small
economy four decades ago. A very different
comparison here on the left is a per capita GDP. So the if the United States and China are roughly the same size economies, but the United States is
1/4 the number of people, then the United States is
much wealthier per person. And this, of course, matters
if you’re thinking about what you can do militarily,
or internationally, you have to think about
how much can you extract from your population and
dedicate to foreign policy or military policy? So just looking at GDP
is not a good measure. Just looking at per capita, wealth is also not a good measure
because what if you have an incredibly small country? You can have very rich individuals, but you wouldn’t be able
to raise the resources for a large military. So then some people
propose this other measure which is GDP times GDP per capita. And that gives you a kind
of combination of the two, and tells you, maybe, how much a country, all-else equal, it can extract. None of these are great measures. The main thing I would take from it is China’s grown tremendously. It’s actually historically
without precedent. And depending upon how
China moves forward, they have tremendous potential to compete with the United States. If we go further, though, one thing we can probably agree on, but once again is contentious, depending on how you look at it, is this very large
conventional build-up by China, which is now making it much harder for the United States to perform what I call key military
missions in northeast Asia. And in particular, the
one that I focused on and worry about the most
is it is much harder now for the United States to defend Taiwan than it was a decade ago, and much more than it
was three decades ago. In addition, China’s going through a major modernization
of its nuclear forces. And so where United States used to have a very large advantage
in nuclear capability, that advantage is closing. And I can describe some of
that in detail if we have time. But even this doesn’t, so those are good places to start, but people in the audience, and some have disagreed
with this characterization, actually, so I put up a couple charts. China has engaged in
a very large build-up, but if you look at spending over time, and actually current spending, the United States still
spends much more than China. The United States is the
blue bar at the bottom, and China is the red bar near the top. So we’re currently spending
about twice as much as China per year on defense, but of course, how much you
have in your military depends, is an accumulation, also. So we’ve accumulated assets over decades. If you think about China, accumulating assets over that red swath, then the United States is
a much larger military. And then the chart on the right, which might be incomprehensible, but actually is very insightful, comes from an article by two
people here at Dartmouth, so I felt compelled to put it up. Shows the percentage of
advanced military capabilities that the United States has. So the United States is
sort of the gray area that reaches out. And if you look, this is
all about aircraft carriers, submarines, advanced
aircraft and helicopters. It shows the United States has sort of 70 or 80% of all the advanced
systems in the world. This was in 19, probably ’13, ’14, and China has, it’s that little red dot, little black dot right in
the middle has sort of none. That’s changing over time. But the point here is that just, even looking at defense
spending doesn’t tell you much, because you have to think
about what system states have, and how good they are at using them. Having said that, you might
also get the wrong impression by looking at this because you might think that China was not militarily capable. But in the end what really matters are the ability to
perform specific missions that matter to the United States. So what do we need to do with our forces relative to China’s? And for a variety of
reasons, I would argue, and I think most people would agree, the missions we have to
perform against China, in many ways favor China. So we’re close to China’s
maritime periphery. We’re talking about defending Taiwan against Chinese attack. We come basically from
continental United States, or Japan, or Guam. China’s much closer. So it turns out that
even though China doesn’t have the military that’s yet comparable to the United States,
it’s making it much harder for the United States to
perform certain missions that are very important to our defense. And so in that, it’s like
you’ve got a broad overview, you can look at spending, but in the end, you’ve
got to look to actually what you really need to accomplish. And we’ll get to some of that
when we talk about Taiwan. Oops, sorry. Okay, so in addition to these points, I think we can agree that, ’cause there’s not much,
there’s sort of a broad picture on the other ones, but that China’s policy in the South China Sea
has been quite assertive and is one of the main things that has soured US/China relations. They’ve built islands, basically, by taking sand from the ocean and put military facilities
on those islands. And even though the islands are small, and at first you could just
miss them for being small, turns out they’re large enough to house substantial military bases. And China’s also rejected
key international judgements about claims that it’s made
to both maritime terrain and to these island features. And so, in that sense,
it’s been both assertive and worrisome, but partly because it’s rejecting international understandings. And finally, a topic
that I won’t have as much to say today about it, but it certainly has placed
a very important role in US/China relations, are
unfair Chinese trade practices. And even though it’s fallen
to the Trump Administration in a sense to start, or
actually in many ways, actually continue a more competitive or assertive trade policy with China, I think this was coming, it actually started under
the Obama Administration, and it’s sort of expected if
you understood the terrain. So that’s all sort of its background. If I had to say in broad terms, what we have is we have
a much more capable China than we’ve had for decades. We have a China that’s
worrying commentators because it is assertive in its region because it hasn’t followed
international norms in a verity of areas. It’s militarily much
more capable than it was, although not nearly as capable
yet as the United States, but it can perform very
important missions in its region. So with that as sort of background which I’ve gone through sort of quickly, but to give you a feel for
how I understand the question, and for those of you who don’t follow it, I think that is a fair
sort of thin description, let me put on the table the six questions that I think are the key questions and that I’ll actually be looking at in my book project, they’ll
have a theoretical front end, and I’ll take on these policy questions. First is the grand strategy question. And by grand strategy I mean, simply, where in the world
should the United States be committed to defending allies, and have other types of
security commendments? And specifically, should
we stay in east Asia? One possible move for the
United States would be to say, China is rising. And you could argue that
makes it more or less likely, more or less important to be in east Asia, and I’ll actually go through that debate. This is not so much on the policy agenda. We are sort of taking,
actually, as Russ said, in some ways we’re taking some
of the status quo as given. We’re in east Asia and
we’re going to stay. I’ll talk about that in a minute. But I think that’s the
first order question. And particularly with a rising power, this is the question we
should be thinking about. Second, assuming we stay, should we maintain our
commitment to Taiwan? And I’ve written about
this at some length, and my own views are a bit controversial, but I think it’s very
important if we stay, to reconsider this commitment,
and I’ll explain why. Third, what should we do
in the South China Sea, which is potentially the most difficult, although I don’t think the most important of all these questions. And here, the issues had to do with, how should we confront
China as it continues to build in the South China Sea, to militarize the South China Sea, to maybe drill into question
freedom of navigation, and a variety of other issues. And then, in a sense,
three more specific issues. You can think of the first three as being what our commitments
should be in broad terms. And then three military questions. What nuclear strategy should we have to implement a strategy? And specifically, I’m
interested in the question of, how intensely the United States
should compete with China to try and undermine
its ability to acquire what I would consider to be an adequate nuclear retaliatory capability. Since I may not get to this, I’ll just talk about it briefly. Until recently, China has had a small and vulnerable nuclear force, which we could destroy. Maybe not with full confidence, but we could have the
expectation of destroying most, if not all of it at least
by the mid, mid-1990s. Now, China is making that
force much harder to destroy. And that has implications for how well we can defend our interests. What kind of conventional
strategies should we have to protect our interests? And I should say, I haven’t
mentioned these yet, but we have alliance interest in Japan, in South Korea, in the Philippines, in Australia, an important,
complicated partnership of types with Taiwan. How do we want to defend those
interests conventionally? And there’s a spectrum,
which I’m not going to get into today, but some are
potentially highly efficient and effective, but also
potentially dangerous. They involve early and large attacks against the Chinese homeland. Or you could think of a
different set of strategies, which in some ways maybe
are not quite as effective, that work more slowly, but are potentially also less escalotory. And so we face an
important trade off there. And of course this would be related to our alliance relations. If we can’t confidently defend
our allies conventionally, they’re going to be really
worried about relying on us, and may have to pursue other means to achieve their own goals. And then finally on trade, and this is now, I’m thinking about this as a security question, not
as a prosperity question for the United States,
but as we pursue trade, if at all with China, should we continue to benefit from comparative advantage in the trade as we have
for the last few decades? Or should we start to pull back and separate our economy
from the Chinese economy, ’cause in a variety of ways it can pose threats to US security? Partly by enabling China to
grow effectively compared to the United States,
partly by enabling China to have advanced technologies
that it might not otherwise be able to develop on its own, partly because of interactions between Chinese students and scholars that give them the kind of expertise that they don’t develop on their own, but they can develop by participating in education in the United
States and the West. So once you’re involved in an
intense security competition, things that appear to be
mutually beneficial or benign are potentially threatening, and how do you balance that out when there are prosperity
benefits to being, to this kind of engagement? There may be also be
socialization benefits, that people to come, if you have hundreds of thousands of
students coming to China a year, it may actually be
valuable in the long-term for the evolution of Chinese policy. So these are the six questions. I mean, of course there
are many specific issues and questions within the questions, and there are lots of other issues. My thinking is that this
really captures the broad sweep of what US policy has to deal with. And in some ways, the framing, although it’s sort of
straightforward is very important because it determines
what we go and we look at, and what we leave behind
and don’t consider. So this is my agenda. And so I’m going to cover these topics. Now, before I start to
talk about them, I want to, oh, so here’s, I was told
this thing has a pointer, which is quite amazing. Okay, so for those of you
that don’t know the area, this obviously is China. This stretch of ocean from Taiwan, south, is the South China Sea,
this is what’s called the Strait of Malacca through here. So if you’re coming from the Persian Gulf, you go through the Strait of Malacca up through the South China Sea to China. This is the East China Sea, which has an important conflict in here between Japan and China. Our allies in Japan, South Korea, partner, not quite ally with Taiwan, ally in the Philippines, Australia. And then growing military relations in particular with other states, but maybe Vietnam, most importantly. Okay, so that’s just the geography, which maybe will help with
some of the discussion. I want to take two sort of digressions before I jump into talking
about the particular questions. And I want to talk about
some about the role about international relations theory. It’s often said or considered
that policy analysis is somehow atheoretical, and that it’s sort of
theory and there’s policy, and you sort of do one or the other. People that do theory,
particularly in political science sometimes look down upon people that do policy analysis, thinking
it’s sort of very concrete and doable, but I think
they’re both really hard. Very importantly, they’re
both complementary. And the point I want to make today is, particularly when it’s a big change, a big shock to the
system like China’s rise, the theory questions
turn out to be essential to really, or theory itself turns out to be essential to doing the analysis. And let me give you some, try
to give you some sense of why. First of all, theorists disagree about whether China’s rise is going to create and necessarily will create
a very intense relationship between the United States and China. Competitive relationship. If it’s going to be competitive, and is more or less beyond
the control of US policy, then there’s certain policies
we should pursue as a result. If, on the other hand, it’s
possible that certain types of cooperation, that, while
protecting US interests, have the potential to moderate China, then we might want to consider
pursuing those policies, even if they’re somewhat risky. On net, they might be best. And so to know, to resolve this, you need to know some of the most basic, sort of what we call grand theory, or basic theory questions. Most important, or most fundamental, maybe not most important, but
does the international system just drive states into competition? So for those of you that have studied some of this so called
realism or other things, you’ll know there’s a
debate among realists about whether the international system, just because states want to be secure, not because they want anything else, but because they want to be secure, major powers are going to get in intense, competitive relations with each other, and there’s danger and the
likelihood of war that follows. Whether or not that’s true, really will influence the
kind of choices we would make with respect to China. Although, in fact, they
can cut in more ways in multiple directions. A sub-argument which is
related but different is, do rising powers want to dominate and need to dominate their regions? So when you say they want
to be a regional hegemony, it means it’s the only major power that exerts influence in that region. Right now, the United States is in, you could put it this way provocatively, the United States is in China’s region. We need to sort of remember that. We’ve got forces deployed
along their maritime periphery. They don’t have anything,
I mean they have forces. So we’re in their region. We’ve got, as I said, we’ve got allies and four deployed forces in South Korea, and in Japan, most importantly. We have forces in Guam which are in attacking distance of China. Is China going to want to
push us out of that region? Not necessarily by fighting, but by making it so hard
and costly for us to stay, that we’ll eventually leave. If so, we’re going to have a very
intense regional competition. Because the United States is
unlikely to want to leave. Although maybe we should. That’s a separate question. Other people don’t think that’s true. They think that a rising
power doesn’t need to be a regional hegemony to be secure. You can be secure in your region without. The United States could need
not be a security threat, even if it stays in
Japan, deployed in Japan. You get very different policies. What about power transitions, which are all part of the same theory? But you commonly heard, maybe,
of that power transitions lead to war. We’re in the process of a
slow but clear transition from US global dominance, loosely-speaking since the end of the
Soviet Union, until now. Where China, in one way or another is passing the United States or
equalizing the United States, or at least in its region is offsetting major US advantages. If that’s likely to lead to war, that has major implications. If it’s not likely, it gives us a different kind of leeway. So you’d need to know the answers. Not the answers. You need to know that
there’s debate on this. There’s not a single answer. And maybe, to some extent,
deal with that complexity. And I’ve sort of said
why, I guess, already why the answers matter. Cooperative policies will fail if it’s unavoidably a competitive system. In which case, they will make
the United States less secure. So you sort of have to decide, even within this realist debate. Is it going to be unavoidably
competitive or not? If it’s not, then there
are a variety of risks that the United States might want to run that will increase its security. And also, if China’s going
to compete very hard, it’s going to make our task harder. It’s going to be harder to deter China, it’s going to be harder to
have adequate capabilities, it’s going to be riskier. And that can also
influence the US decision about whether to stay. But also, if we stay, it could influence how much we need to invest and the kind of alliances
we need to build. Okay, so that’s on theory. I don’t want to give you
the impression, though, that it’s only realist theory. So there are lots of other theories, and I’m just going to run through them. Or not even run through them, I’m just going to name them. So it’s sort of like a labeling thing. If you know what these are, it’s helpful. If not, you can just wait
’til this slide is over. But it’s a big debate about
whether regime type matters. We’re trying to be way less dangerous if it were a democracy, or
is it much more dangerous because it is an authoritarian regime? Or maybe it doesn’t matter. Some theories say it doesn’t matter, others say it matters a lot. And we should be much more worried because the type of regime that we face. Economic interdependence. Right now, we’re deeply intertwined
economically with China. Some people think that
makes conflict less likely because trade is valuable and states don’t want to give it up, and other people think it makes war and competition more likely, because it creates vulnerabilities that each side can try
to take advantage of. And once states are
vulnerable and insecure, they tend to act forcefully, often. So can the United States make concessions without undermining the credibility for protecting its allies? So for example, I’ve argued, and we’ll touch on today
that the United States should consider breaking
it’s commitment to Taiwan. One of the key
counterarguments is that if the United States does that, it will undermine Japanese confidence in the
United States as an ally. And will damage, or maybe
destroy the alliance. It’s parlayed as a factual question. We can go learn enough about Japan. Anyway, without going
into the whole thing, Japan will say a lot of
things about how it will wreck the alliance, but in
the end I think it won’t wreck the alliance, partly
because I don’t think our credibility is that tightly connected between Taiwan and
Japan, they’re different. Also, Japan doesn’t have
anywhere else to go. But that’s all into the
specifics of the debate. By the way, this is
partly a factual question, but it is partly a theory question. Can we do this? Can we make concessions without
undermining our alliances? On the flip side is the
question about whether as China becomes more and more powerful, our allies are going to defect. So there’s an argument that states tend to balance against power in threats. But some people think that if a state becomes powerful enough, it
will draw countries to it, which is called bandwagoning. So you join, balancing is sort
of joining the weaker side, or the less threatening side, bandwagoning is joining
with the stronger side. And there’s a concern that if
China becomes powerful enough, our allies will essentially defect. And instead of working
with the United States, Japan will actually become
part of a partnership of some sort with China, I mean, create a block that
excludes the United States. So how much we need to worry
about that is a theory question as much as a factual question. We can do some things to influence it, but it will influence our policy. And then just back to the nuts
and bolts of military policy. How difficult is conventional deterrence, and how difficult is nuclear deterrence? And these are complicated questions that have long histories
and well-developed arguments from the Cold War, but to some extent, whether you should stay and defend allies depends upon how effective you can be, and how hard it is to be effective. And so this question, for instance, is tied to the grand strategy question. If it turned out you
couldn’t protect your allies, it was just too hard, then it would make sense to leave. If it was relatively easy
or relatively low-risk, you should stay. Well, how do you know those things? Partly it depends on the
nature of that adversary. Probably it depends on
the international system and how hard it drives
states into competition. But partly it just depends on the logic of the cost and benefits of being attacked and being able to deter. So these are all sort of other questions. And there’s a full
laundry list in addition, that make these policy
questions theory questions. I also want to talk about another issue that I think’s important to acknowledge in thinking about China, which is just the sheer uncertainty we face in dealing with these questions. And the thing I would say is, I’m going to go through some
of the key uncertainties, but I think the key point from
a policy perspective is that when you face uncertainty, there’s a strong inclination to decide which of those possibilities
you think is right, and then plan against that possibility. And that’s not what you want to do. What you want to do is accept
the full range of uncertainty and plan against the range. Not necessarily equally
across the whole range, but you want what we call a robust policy that works relatively well across the range of possibilities. And so it’s important to accept
uncertainty for what it is, including that the China
experts can’t agree on the nature of China. In which case, it’s not
really smart for me to decide, because they know way more
about it and they can’t decide, so I’m going to design policy
that works relatively well across the expert
distribution of types of China that we may face. And many examples like this. So the first one is about this. Will China continue to grow? Some people this that China may collapse for a variety of domestic
and regime type reasons. If that’s true you might say, well, first of all we don’t know. But if you believed it was a possibility, you might be less willing
to make concessions now. Because China might not
be a threat in the future and you wouldn’t have to
make those concessions. So to some extent, well,
in many different ways, but your future bet on where China is headed, influences policy. Another thing that’s critical, and it’s probably often
the most important issue in any major power valuation is, what does the adversary really want? What are their goals? So we often think about
states as being certain types. So is China a state that really is driven only by security? Is it an insecure state? And you might think, how could
China be an insecure state? It’s just sitting there,
it’s this huge landmass. I’m not going to go into it at length, but if you think the United
States is ever at all insecure, divided by two huge oceans
and no real threats, think about China. China’s, like, got states
all around its landmass, it’s got the world’s major
power in its neighborhood. We can interrupt all the sea lanes, both from the Persian Gulf, through the Strait of Malacca, through the South China Sea, and that all puts aside
the question of Taiwan, which we think legitimately
as an independent country, but China, as strongly in its
view as legitimately thinks it’s part of China. And the extent that it’s not part of China is a major source of Chinese insecurity. So China is, at a minimum,
an insecure state. Is it also a state that wants
to expand for other reasons? For status, for economic purposes, does it want to take territory
to aggrandize itself as well? People disagree. And we don’t know. So we have to plan
against that possibility. Are its aims limited or unlimited? It’s clear that China
has expansionist aims from our perspective in
the sense that it wants to control Taiwan. It may not want much more than Taiwan. If it wants a lot more, that
matters a lot to our policy, and it will be satisfied with Taiwan. That matters a lot to our policy. Which isn’t to say we
should break our connections to Taiwan, but it makes it
a very different proposition for reasons that I’ll go into. These are things we don’t know for sure. Doesn’t mean we don’t know anything, but we don’t know for sure. There are also a number of
military technical questions that we don’t know the answers to. For instance, we don’t know
how hard it is going to be for China to keep the United States away from its maritime periphery, or how hard it is going to
be for the United States to be able to prevent
the freedom of action in the South China Sea
in a large conflict. Experts disagree. And it’s partly the result
of changing technology that has to do with reconnaissance, it has to do with precision. But so there are uncertainties about the conventional balance. The ability to perform
conventional missions in ongoing competition between
the United States and China. There’s also uncertainties
about nuclear weapons and the nuclear balance. I’m just going to leave that there, ’cause I have time constraints. And I tell you, it’s a long-term question for the United States, which is, are we prepared for this competition? We competed in a, I
think, a relatively smart and relatively effective way with the Soviet Union
for a number of decades. And many people think US
policy is not as smart and coherent as it was in those decades. And it raises the question, if it turns out that China
not only doesn’t collapse, but turns out to be an
economically-effective authoritarian regime, is
the United States prepared to compete over the next
few decades with that China? Is it we’re prepared
to make the investments that it will take to be
a first-rate competitor against a first-rate
technologically-advanced economy? And I think people don’t know for sure. But when you look at
this question and say, what should our policies be, we need to take into account whether
or not we’re committed and able to do that over time, as well as all the other
uncertainties that sort of lie outside of our domestic grasp. Okay, so that’s all by way of
background and perspective. And I’m going to take
about 15 or 20 minutes just to talk about a couple of
the key policy questions. And that will leave us
about half an hour for Q&A. Okay, so this is the most basic question. People here have written
about it at length. We have real experts at Dartmouth. They don’t necessarily
agree with each other so that makes it interesting. But the question here is,
should we stay in East Asia? And I’m just going to give
a little bit of background on these debates, and
then I’m going to explain how China’s rise potentially
affects the logic of each side. Now, one thing I’ll just highlight at the beginning is frustrating. I’m going to say there’s
two basic schools. China’s rise makes both of
their arguments stronger. So it doesn’t resolve the debate. But it complicates the debate, or it adds, it changes the debate. So the grand strategy,
just for those of you that are not familiar with the term, it’s really a term for sort of, what regions of the globe
should the United States be committed to protect? Lots of sub-questions
about how should it do it, and so on and so forth. I’m mostly going to just
focus on the top line. And for us, today, it
means, should we stay in Northeast Asia? During the Cold War,
there was an extensive, or after the Cold War, I should say, after the Soviet Union fell apart, there was an extensive
debate about whether the United States should
change its grand strategy. But it never got to be a close call. Somewhat interestingly, we continued to be basically as
committed around the globe throughout the post-Cold War
era as we were during it, even though the Cold War was, that grand strategy was designed to deal with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union went away, and we still stayed in Europe and Asia, and then we went a lot of
other places in addition, partly ’cause we had the leeway, and we found various purposes. But that’s a whole other thing. But China’s rise did not play
much of a role in that debate, and it hasn’t played much role yet. I’m going to tell you there’s,
like I said, two schools. For those of you that follow this, you’ll know many more schools. One of them become a call to engagement. Should we maintain our
allies in Europe and Asia and stay committed in the Gulf? I’m just going to focus on Asia. There are many sub-schools. So those of you that might be
thinking off-shore balancing, you might be thinking American dominance, those are all sort of, in various ways, in the engagement school. And then there’s the Neo-Isolationists, which basically say we
should end our alliances. It’s neo in the sense that we can still be engaged economically, so
it’s not a full isolation. And I’m going to summarize
those two schools, and then play out for you how China’s rise influences the relative strength. Now, it’s not very
satisfying, like I said, because they’re both stronger. But it’s interesting. And some of the changes that are created by China’s rise, it
insulates into which school you might line up with. So the basis of engagement, I should say as I’ve already, or it
just might be clear, engagement is our current policy. It’s been our policy
in one form or another since the late 1940s. And the United States protects interest around the globe via deterrence, and it does this with allies. So I don’t have time to go into it, but for instance, we didn’t want a state to dominate Eurasia,
so we formed alliances in Europe and in Asia. We did it for our interests,
not for their interests. Today we have important alliances with Japan and South Korea. It’s not quite alliance with Taiwan, but we have a very important commitment, conditional commitment to Taiwan. People are concerned about
the freedom of the seas, which are both a peace
time and wartime concern, which is basically the ability of trade to transit the open oceans. And the United States has a concern for what’s more broadly
called the regional order. Sort of slowly, the economic openness, the nature of the broad
international economic system, and also, maybe, a variety of norms that the United States helped develop about territorial rights
and appropriate behavior. So these are our interests, and the argument is we need our alliances, and we need to be
forward-deployed militarily in one form or another to protect them. A second argument for
engagement is that it helps stop proliferation. So there’s a concern
that if we were not there protecting our allies, all
of whom of our key allies can get nuclear weapons, they
would get nuclear weapons, which we don’t want them to do. So instead of having
Japan, and South Korea, and Germany as nuclear
powers, we stay in Europe and Asia, and convince them
they don’t need nuclear weapons. Sometimes we’ve had to lean on them, sometimes they’ve leaned back on us. But in any event, most people think that if we weren’t there it would influence the likelihood of proliferation. And so if you’re worried
about proliferation, as this school is, and thinks
it undesirable then you stay. And this school also
argues that US alliances are for deployment, help keep the international
economic system open. And so the US prosperity,
that which grew out of in the Cold War era, was
partly enabled by alliances, and the concern is that
not having those alliances make it more likely that the system would become more closed, more competitive. We’d have trade wars, and
the prosperity benefit, as well as possibly the
peace-creating benefits of trade would be lost. So with all due respect
to oversimplification, those are, I would say,
like, the key arguments. Then the question is, what happens to those with China’s rise? Well, if China strives
for regional hegemony, or even just if it doesn’t
but has overwhelming power, it will increase threats to US interests. So these increased threats,
oops, I want to go back, these increased threats
mean that our allies are more valuable, right? Because our interests are more threatened, our allies protect those interests, so China’s rise means it’s more important to be forward-deployed. Excuse me just for a second. Our allies will be more vulnerable, and so deterrence is more valuable, which is another way of sort of saying the first bullet point. But quickly following from that, the growing threat would increase Japan’s and Taiwan’s incentives, and
South Korea’s incentives. I should have put, I was in there, to acquire nuclear weapons. So because those countries
will be more vulnerable, particularly Japan,
Taiwan’s been vulnerable, I think South Korea
already has its reasons to get nuclear weapons, the
key country here is Japan. Because Japan is more vulnerable,
it has greater incentives. So we need to tighten, we need
to build their confidence. We need to make sure that
there are not questions about our credibility. And engagement is the way to do that. So the value of reassurance increases. And continuing with the pace
of argument here is that security guarantees
preserve economic openness by making China’s ability to use threats against those countries less effective. So in other words, one
concern is that China will use its economic,
but also military weight to coerce countries and undermine some of the trading system, so in addition to just the basic argument that alliances support open economics, there’s a specific argument here. Okay, it wouldn’t be
interesting if there weren’t at least one good flip side. And so the Neo-Isolationist
had the clearest counter set of arguments. Their argument is quite bold, but actually surprisingly strong, which is that we just don’t
have security interests in Europe and Asia. Our interests are in preserving and protecting the United
States from attack. What happens in Europe
and Asia doesn’t matter. We can protect ourselves anyway. We can talk about that. It turns our it’s actually
just on its own narrow terms, I think, quite a compelling argument. A regional war won’t
threatened US vital interests. The US homeland won’t be attacked, the US economy won’t be damaged,
but not severely damaged. And so better just to
stay out of this mess, preserve our resources, and not be involved, not
only not all over the globe, we’re not talking about, like,
the Iraqs and Afghanistans, but we’re talking about Europe and Asia. Moreover, alliance commitments, according to this school are dangerous. If there’s a war in Europe,
and you’re deployed in Europe, you’re there to deter that war, but if you’re there, you’re in the war. Same thing, if there’s a war between China and one of our allies, the
whole way we make our threat, our deterrent threat
credible is by we have forces in that country, we’ve got
reputation on the line, you’re guaranteeing you’re in that war. So if you’re not sure you can prevent it, the best way to stay
out of the way is just to be out of there, not be there. On proliferation, many
people see benefits. It’s a bit counterintuitive, although some academics have
staked their careers on this, but in some ways, your
ally with nuclear weapons is much better able to deter an attack on its homeland than you
are able to deter an attack on its homeland, because
it’s its homeland, so it’s more willing to
run the risk of escalation. The great concern about
US protecting allies, from the perspective of our allies is that we won’t come to their aid. It’s very risky when you
face a nuclear power. So deterrence, I mean, proliferation, might actually be good in the right hands, and in the right places with
an advanced stable country, and Japan would certainly fit that bill. And then finally the
argument is economic openness doesn’t require US security guarantees. It’s basically the economic
value of the market is what drives openness. Trade is good for all players. And US security guarantees
are not essential. So these are old arguments. These are the established arguments. What does China’s rise do to these? China’s rise, most people
think, makes war more likely. It’s more militarily capable, it’s a determined state, it has interests, it’s not satisfied with the status quo, at least with respect to Taiwan. If war is more likely, our
alliances are more dangerous, because they guarantee
we’ll be in those wars. Proliferation becomes more
valuable and appropriate if, in fact, China poses
a really large threat to our allies that we
maybe can’t protect them. Right, China’s becoming
increasingly militarily capable. Japan is having doubts
about its long-term ability to protect itself. Not so much from invasion,
but from various types of economic coercion, maybe
coercion in a conventional war. Proliferation, then, will be valuable. It will make Japan more secure, and it may be a necessary deterrent. In addition, US commitments
strain US/China relations. We’re in their region, we’re close, we threaten their ceilings,
we protect Taiwan. And the strain in US/China relations is arguably bad for the United States. Our interests are in the United
States, not in the region. Strained relations are bad. But putting that aside,
I mean, bad for peace. But in addition, insecurity fuels protectionist policies, right? So strained US/China
policies are going to hurt the open economic system. More likely the system will stay open if the United States is out of the region. US/China relations aren’t strained, and we don’t worry
about the relative gains and technological implications of trade. So this argument would say, somewhat counterintuitively,
but I think, powerfully, if you want to keep the
economic system open, I think we need to
rebalance a lot of things, but I don’t think most
people think that we want to have an ongoing trade
competition with China, maybe we should just
get out of the region. Now, that’s all I’m
going to say about this. I’m not going to resolve these
two questions, these two sides. I’ll leave it to you to think about, or we can talk about it
in question and answer. Deeply embedded in here are a
variety of theory questions, both about the dangers of proliferation, about the nature of China,
the nature of the system. But this is a huge choice
for the United States. And given the sea change
that’s taking place with China’s rise, and
once again, if you think, once again, dealing with
these uncertainties, that China’s going to continue
to become more capable, maintain politically effective at home, then this is a very important decision. Okay. Having said all that, it’s very
unlikely we’re going to leave. I mean, the case is strong. I think the case is strong on both sides. For a variety of reasons,
we’re likely to stay. But staying in Asia does not mean that we keep our commitment to Taiwan. We can stay and protect our key interests, which are arguably, Japan and South Korea, Australia, but Australia’s
way on the outer edge of the China threat, but
not continue to keep Taiwan. So you could say we
could have, essentially, our same grand strategy. Taiwan was never at the core of it, it was always Japan and South Korea, question is, should we do it? So just some basics on this. We have a commitment now to protect Taiwan if China launches an unprovoked attack. And by unprovoked, what we mean is, a situation in which Taiwan does not move officially toward independence,
or become independent. So right now, Taiwan is an
independent country day-to-day, but it still maintains that it’s, or accepts that it’s part of China. And there’s a kind of
complicated fiction around it. But if Taiwan changes its status, the China may well, well
anyway, so that will, on the other hand there is
a kind of dual deterrence. Which is we don’t want
Taiwan to declare dependence. And so we say we’ll protect you only if the attack is unprovoked. If you provoke it, we’re
not coming to your aid. And so in that sense,
we’re deterring Taiwan because they’ll be on their own if they provoke the attack. Or if they take this action
and China follows through. A few basics on Taiwan. Importantly, it’s a democracy. It was not always a democracy, it was not a democracy when
we were actually an ally, but it is now a multi-party democracy. It’s an advanced industrial economy, produces some of the world’s highest-quality semi-conductors, and it’s a relatively large population. 23 million or 24 million. China, as I’ve said a couple times, believes Taiwan is part of China. We don’t think of it that way, but it is how China thinks about it, and we just need to accept it. Okay, my screen just died. So I don’t know what to do with it. – [Audience Member] Could
look at the screen here. – Well, I think I’ll just
sort of click through and see what happens. The slide show. Okay, there we go. And unification has been
a longstanding goal. So this is not something
China’s comfortable about, but unification is a very
important policy for China. I can’t see anything here, but, which makes it a little hard. Ah, sorry. Well, we’re just going to have to… I can’t even see my pointer, oh, okay. Okay. I can’t explain this. Okay, well anyway, so in addition, it’s not only a danger of provocation, it’s possible that China, at some point, will decide to act on its own and say, we have waited long enough. We are going to actually bring
Taiwan under our control. So the possibility of
war here is two-sided. One is that Taiwan provokes the war, but also that China just decides it’s not going to wait any longer. The current president has
said this is not a problem we should pass on to the next generation. Count that in however
many decades you want, but it’s not unlimited,
and the argument is that we don’t have, China would
say, from its perspective, does not have unlimited patience
to deal with this question. I think it’s, by far,
the most likely scenario for a large war between
China and the United States is over Taiwan. Most people have looked
at the South China Sea where there’s been a lot
of pushing and shoving, and you can make up scenarios. But keep in mind, the South China Sea is about a bunch of little
islands, barely islands, you can barely find on a map. Actually, you can’t find ’em on a map. Like, on Google Maps, you have to, like, keep pressing to go in, and in, and in, and before, just about when it pixelates, you can find the biggest
of these little islands. There are a whole variety of other issues. But you can tell stories, but the stakes just don’t
warrant a large war. The stakes over Taiwan,
arguably, warrant a large war. It’s a major democracy. It’s the 15th or 16th
largest GNP in the world, it’s populated, unlike
these little islands mostly don’t have anybody on them, and there are a variety of ways that that conflict could happen. And so it’s not to say we should break it, but I think, that commitment,
but we have to recognize, I think, that it’s a risky commitment. Because this is a
paramount issue for China. We don’t get to completely control either, whether China attacks, or Taiwan
moves toward independence, which it often is moving
in that direction. And so I think it’s dangerous. I think it’s, by far, the most
dangerous issue on the table. And in fact, if you think about it, the reason I got fascinated
with the question was, from a really macro, realist-type view, if you look at it, you can’t figure out why China and the United States would even have strained relations. Like, you always have
to say, what’s it about? Taiwan is an easy answer to that. Okay, so what are the benefits? And I’m going to leave less time
for questions than I wanted, so I’m going to go even faster. But what are the benefit of any agreement? It eliminates that path to war. Which, I think’s by far, if
it’s the most likely path, and you’re talking about a major power that’s a major nuclear weapon state, and you can eliminate the
most likely path to war, that’s a powerful argument. Whoops, of course I can’t
even control the PowerPoints. It’s not a new danger. This danger has been there a long time. Like, China, we’ve had this
disagreement with China ever since, basically,
Taiwan became independent following the Civil War. But things are changing. China is much more capable. It was not capable of conquering
Taiwan until recently. Maybe now it is blockading it. It’s a real military capability
we didn’t see before. And as I mentioned, the Chinese
leadership has indicated that it’s not going to,
may not wait forever. So the danger is changing. It’s not new, but it’s, I
think significantly larger. Another key advantage is it
could increase Chinese security, partly because they’re insecure as long as they don’t control Taiwan, but also because it
makes the United States look less threatening. You could say, like, why would China be, why would the United States be a threat? Well, we’re actually
controlling a piece of land that they consider a
part of their country. It’d be sort of like if
China controlled California. And we say, well, California
is part of the United States, they’d say that’s fine, we got it. And so we control Taiwan in a sense, and they see us as undermining
a key thing that they want. And it’s just too easy from
our perspective, I think, to underappreciate how strongly
the Chinese feel about this. But it makes us look like we’re opposed to their success as a major power. And then a point that’s often lost is that in a lot of ways, much of the competition, the military competition
between the United States and China really is driven,
I believe, by Taiwan, because there’s very
little else to worry about. But it turns out the Chinese
conventional build-up is primarily about Taiwan. A lot of its additional
conventional build-up is about controlling the South China Sea, which is the key access to Taiwan. If the Taiwan issue goes away, there’s a lot less to compete about. So you could arguably unwind
the military competition which is straining the relationship, it’s making it, which is
straining the political, the economic relationship,
and also it’s been dragging the countries into
conflict over other issues. Okay, so what are the costs? If it was as easy as that, we’d be done. Okay, so what are the direct costs? First, and this is the one
I think is most important, is even though we don’t have core national security interests, and I would say, and we only have limited economic interests in Taiwan, we do have important sort of political and ideological interests. They’ve been a partner. It’s a thriving democracy. The United States has
tried to spread freedom and supported the spread of
freedom around the world. We have sometimes done it
through the use of force, which is probably a bad idea. This didn’t happen through force, and you consider it to
be an accomplishment. Of course, the Taiwanese
deserve much of the credit, but the United States has
helped in an important way. And so it’s a part of
what many people think should be part of US foreign policy. Another danger, and
this is a theory debate, is if we break the commitment to Taiwan, it will encourage the
Chinese to ask for more, to make further demands. You don’t want to make concessions
to an expansionist state. You don’t want to make
concessions to a state that has unlimited aims. The whole Munich analogy
is about the mistake of giving up some to Hitler when he wanted to conquer all of
Europe, if not the globe. But if Hitler had only
wanted a little territory, some of those concessions
might have been a good idea. It was just game’s over,
everything is done. It’s possible that if China
would be satisfied with Taiwan, and it had limited aims, it
would be a very good move. But if China wants to control
all of Northeast Asia, maybe not control it like occupy it, but control it, and dominate it, and we don’t want them to. Or if they eventually, like the National Defense Strategy says, they want to compete globally, then we don’t want to encourage them by making concessions and
suggesting we lack resolve. And Taiwan is just the first step to concession after concession, that eventually we will
give them California. Okay, so those are the first two. It risks weakening US
military capabilities. So it turns out, and this is
actually a major uncertainty, but if you look at the
map, Taiwan actually does create a couple relatively
narrow passageways. Still not narrow, but
relatively narrow passageways that China can get from the East China Sea and the South China Sea
into the Pacific Ocean. And right now because we control Taiwan, it gives us the ability to
monitor a variety of traffic, but most importantly, submarine
traffic through those gaps. Turns out that if China can
easily get submarines out into the Pacific, or beyond what’s called the first island chain, it can
keep US carrier battle groups further away, and it would start to weaken the US ability to
meet them with key missions in the region. So it’s potentially militarily dangerous for us to not control Taiwan. Now, once again, to actually analyze this, you would have to look at the full suite of growing Chinese capabilities. Not only the additional
capability they might have from having Taiwan. I think the value’s exaggerated, but I would also point out,
looking at both sides of this, is we’re not going to get into
a conflict with China anyway. Doesn’t matter if they somewhat improve military capabilities. So once again, the uncertainties are very, very hard to manage here. And then finally, a point
that I mentioned earlier, there’s the danger that
if we ended our commitment to Taiwan that it would
destroy the US/Japan alliance or other alliances
because Japan might decide that it couldn’t rely
on the United States, and maybe it should just
sort of side with China. I’ll just say, on this one I
think it’s incredibly unlikely. The animosity between
China and Japan suggests that that’s not happening anytime soon. It’s way more likely,
which still might be bad that China would get nuclear
weapons than it would that it be sort of side with China, so then we’re back in
that grand strategy debate about how bad is the proliferation. But anyway, I’m going to stop there. I went a little bit longer,
but I tried to cover a lot. I not so much wanted to
give you my bottom line on any of these issues, some of which I have bottom lines on,
and some of which I don’t, but just to sort of see with more time, how you might systematically go through both to break up the big
questions into manageable pieces to emphasize to some extent, the importance of asking
the right questions because they determine
what you really look at. And sometimes, particularly
in these situations, we shouldn’t take the
status quo for granted. And then the role of
theory and uncertainty in grappling with these issues. So thank you, and I think we have time for like 20 minutes, 25 minutes. (audience applauding) (speakers drowned out by applause) – I’ll just help you call on questions. – Okay, great.
– So if you have a question, raise your hand. Yes? Sorry, there’s a mic coming to you, right here to your right. – [Student] Hi. Thank you for your talk. It’s incredibly wonderful
to have you here. I have two quite different
questions, so take your pick. One is how–
– I’ll take the easy one. – [Student] How does the recent, how did the recent events in Hong Kong affect our evaluation of the direct costs of conceding Taiwan in
terms of the democracy and freedom on the island, and the second is, how
does the colonial history of the West and Japan in China affect how we evaluate China’s security aims in that all of the lands
that China is claiming in terms of Taiwan and the South China Sea islands are all lands that it held before western or Japanese colonial interests caused the century of
humiliation and so forth? – Yeah, great, I’ll take the first one. So Hong Kong and Taiwan, I think
that it’s a great question. I think that Chinese, well,
it’s interesting today. The House of, I think the
House of Representatives voted to support democracy in Hong Kong. Which sounds really obvious
to you, I mean, it’s like, of course there should be democracy there, but it occurred to me, once again using my California analogy, ’cause unlike Taiwan, Hong
Kong is part of China. Hong Kong is part of China. There’s an understanding established by the British and the Chinese about what the, how
Hong Kong would be ruled for 50 years after the turn over, but it is part of China. So it’s sort of interesting. Like, what does China think when the US House of Representatives calls for democracy in Hong Kong? I’m not saying it’s wrong, but just, I mean, among other things, it would look extremely hostile
to the Chinese government. So if that hadn’t occurred to
you when you read the paper, it’s just like, look at this
from China’s perspective. The more important point, though, or the more relevant point
here is that Hong Kong, there was a hope that China would allow and respect, well, first of
all, would respect the deal. And the deal was that Hong Kong would be, for the most part, a
self-ruling democracy. And in a variety of ways,
China has not let that happen, including by limiting who could run and be represented in the legislature. Now, in a variety of ways, China is intervening more in Hong Kong. Although I will say that demonstrators are asking for a lot. But China is showing its
willingness in a variety of ways, both in cyber and information, as well as limited use of
force to repress in Hong Kong. If you look at that and say
that Hong Kong was supposed to be the example that
would convince Taiwan that it would willingly
unify with the mainland, it’s obviously working in
exactly the opposite direction. What it suggests is that China, ’cause Hong Kong is much
smaller than Taiwan, but it’s still six million people, 23 both large and important economies. The situation is doing damage to the economy in Hong Kong, that China would be willing
to do the same thing over time in Taiwan. And so it makes it hard to be optimistic that we could break the
commitment with Taiwan, and that over time that there would be one China, two system in Taiwan that allowed Taiwan to
be the type of democracy that it currently is. From my perspective, since I
said one of the largest costs is the first cost is the concession of protecting a system that we value. I think that it means we should expect that the costs are larger. In other words, if they’re
behaving let’s say, poorly in Hong Kong, it means
that we’re going to have the same kind of costs in Taiwan, and I think that just
makes it a harder decision. Or we should recognize that
it’s got a more costly decision. And so that would cut against breaking our commitment to Taiwan. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, but I think we have to face up to that’s the likely outcome. I will say, on the flip side, and it’s not at all why I was in favor of breaking the commitment to Taiwan. I think that if we broke
the commitment to Taiwan, it would be huge headache for China. Because it would be like
Hong Kong on steroids, right? I mean, ’cause it’s a vibrant democracy, it’s had its own system,
it’s a large economy, it’s going to be very hard for China to productively integrate
Taiwan into the Chinese system. So it’s not a good reason to do it, but then they can’t say, they can’t blame it on us,
they can’t blame it on anybody, it’s just Taiwan, and
increasingly the Taiwanese did not want to be part of the mainland. – [Moderator] Got a couple
questions in the back row. Wait until you get a microphone. – Hi, thank you for being with us today. I just had a quick question about, you identified these two schools, the engagement and then Neo-Isolationists. And I’m just curious about how
you fit our current approach into that model? Because I think the way that I see the Trump Administration’s approach is well, if Neo-Isolationist is everything but the economic engagement,
it seems like the Trump approach is only targeting
the economic engagement as sort of a blunt tool
for everything else and not addressing the
regional commitments. So I’m curious about you
kind of square current events with the theoretical model. – Or at least with the description. I think that, I mean, we’re
still very much involved. I mean, we have engagement
in the basic sense, right? The key thing in our
engagement is we have allies that we are committed to protecting. Trump has said a variety of things that understandably worry
our allies, and should, and things he shouldn’t have said. But US policy continues to by-and-large, be the policy that, even
with all the ups and downs that it has been, which is we’re still, I mean, Trump was reluctant to say he would accept an Article
five commitment to NATO, but eventually he did. We’ve continued to operate, and plan with, and support NATO, we’re
continuing to pivot toward Asia and be prepared to protect
our allies in east Asia. So the core of that
engagement strategy is there. We’ve kept our central
allies, our key allies in western Europe, or now,
western and central Europe and in East Asia. And in complicated ways, also in the Gulf. On the open economic system, I mean, the United States, once again, is not, and there are some people who
want to disengage from China, which I think is unlikely. But right now we’re deeply
engaged economically throughout the world,
and still with China, with the goal of rebalancing
the economic playing field with China, but at least official policy and most observers don’t want to break that commitment either. So I mean, I think a kind of corrected, which needed to happen, a kind of corrected trade
arrangement with China is still the likely outcome. – [Moderator] Now there’s
a question right up here. – Here. Hi, thank you for speaking today. I’m just wondering if China’s
economy continues to grow, how likely do you think that if it uses its economic leverage,
how likely would it be that other countries
who otherwise wouldn’t have bandwagoned with
China, start leaning away from the US and more towards China? Because you see US allies
such as South Korea, and Japan, and a large
share of their export market is with China, so if
they’re assured that China will continue to be,
like, one of their largest trading partners, will they
bounce away from the US? – Yeah, well, most US allies
want to have it both ways in the good sense, which is
they want the United States as their security guarantor and China as their trading partner. The United States is the same, by the way. We want to defend against China and also trade with China. But people are worried about the amount of economic influence that China, and also, I guess, the political overflow from that amount of economic influence. And so I think this is going to be one, we haven’t seen this
before in the modern era where we face an economically
extremely capable adversary. The Soviet Union was an
economic basket case. And so we didn’t have to
confront these issues. I think, my sense is that
for the foreseeable future, that China that causes
pursuing threatening polices is going to assure that our allies
want to stay aligned with us. And that when push comes
to shove, if they have to, they’ll actually reduce their economic engagement with China. Only if they have to, but
that’s the same with us, I think, only if we need to. If China starts to look less
threatening in various ways, and I think it’s greatly
misplayed its hand in the South China Sea,
and has created an image which is much more,
potentially much more hostile than its goals are. And if the United States
becomes an unreliable alliance, or it looks to be an increasingly unreliable alliance partner, that’s when we’ll start to lose, not in security terms,
but where we’ll sort of, you’ll start to see countries
becoming neutral politically and trading with China. I think that one is in our control if we manage it correctly. – Raise you hand if you have a question. I see one right here. The Williams purple,
right, see wearing that. We will be getting you a new T-shirt. But listen, before, whole
you’re waiting for the mic, I have a question for you. You studied physics as an undergraduate. At MIT, am I remembering that?
– That’s correct. – And that impresses me.
(audience laughing) – That’s good, I’m glad, yeah. – I mean, it’s not Cal
Tech, but it’s impressive. – Most political scientists
have at least econ envy, so at least it’s a veer–
– And you’ve got a masters in physics. So what I would like to know
is what’s more difficult, physics or politics? – Okay, well you know what Einstein said. ‘Cause he said politics is way harder. But I’m not an Einstein. I thought physics was way harder. (laughs) – All right.
– Yes, sir? – So like everyone else
said, thank you so much for coming today. This was a really just,
like, excellent way to learn about a lot of
the issues facing China. My question is sort of related to the point about allied confidence. But so you mentioned a lot about how Japan is sort of intrinsically going to sort of avoid cooperating with China. But my question is more about, to what extend does our
commitment to Taiwan both sort of show US resolve
or change allied behavior in ways that could potentially affect North Korean behavior, which is obviously a less pressing military
threat in terms of capabilities than China, but might have
sort of different resolve or intentions with using force, and could sort of withdrawn from Taiwan, either change South Korean
or Japanese behavior in ways that threaten them or
make the US seem more likely, or less likely, rather, to
use force to deter them? – This is one of the key
arguments against sort of breaking or even raising doubts about the commitment to Taiwan, which is that South Korea and Japan will doubt our commitment. I think that particularly
if it’s well-handled, that we can explain Japan
is different than Taiwan. And that the reasons that we’re ending our commitment to Taiwan
don’t apply to Japan. And Japan won’t completely believe it, they’ll still be nervous about it, but they’ll understand the difference. And so the logic of sort of
connectedness of credibility depends upon the similarity
of things that are connected. And if they’re identical, and
you break a commitment to one, it makes sense you’re going to
break a commitment to another. Depends upon what dimensions
you’re measuring similarity. They’re both in East Asia, right? So they’re similar. But they’re very different. And so I think we could explain that. We could also demonstrate it. So if you say we’re not protecting Taiwan, but we’re building up forces in Japan, we’re increasing interoperability, we’re trying to strengthen
and deepen that alliance, at the same time you’re
breaking a different commitment, I think we can maintain the
credibility of the alliance. Now, I think there
would be panic in Japan, but I think over time
it would resolve itself in the way that I’m suggesting. I also think that Japan
doesn’t have good alternatives. So it’s not like you take
advantage of your allies when they don’t have good alternatives, but when you sort of say,
what’s the likely cost? We do care about how
Japan would actually act. And I think that they
would keep the alliance. If anything, they would work
with us to deepen the alliance. So I don’t see that as a, I will say, once again, uncertainties. A lot of people who are
expert in the region disagree with me on this. And certainly the Japanese
will say that they would be very upset about it. Interestingly, I think
it’s in Japan’s interest for us to break our
commitment with Taiwan. The way that you get a war
between China and Japan is over Taiwan. I don’t think China wants to attack Japan. But if there’s a war with Taiwan, two things are going to happen. Japan’s going to get attacked
because we have bases there. And so to blunt the US capability, China will have to attack Japan. Two, increasingly over the last 15 years, the relationship between
the United States and Japan has deepened in such a way
that Japan is responsible for aiding the United
States when it’s fighting in the region, which means
in a Taiwan scenario. So if this war happens between where the United States
comes to the aid of Taiwan, Japan’s in the war. And it’s by far the most
likely way that I think that Japan’s going to get in a
war with China is over Taiwan. So I mean, somewhat ironically, even though there might be military costs to not having that alliance, I think it would actually
be in Japan’s interest. Now, Japan’s not making that case, so that might make you doubt my argument, but with good reason. But anyway, on its face, it’s actually quite a danger for Japan. – We have time for a
couple more questions. Then we’re going to have to let people, let these students go get some food. They’re getting hungry. Back row? If you have a question,
signal interest to me. – Yep, I found your point that upending the United States commitment to Taiwan will reduce the competition
between China and Taiwan. How would you refute the
counterargument that Taiwan is never the cause of conflicts between the United States and China? It’s always about China becoming the second strongest power and the gap between China and the United
States is getting smaller, and Taiwan’s probably just the card that the United States
can use during conflicts just like this year during the trade war, they were like, the United
States Marine forces near Taiwan sea, and ending
this commitment won’t reduce the competition at all. – Okay, so this is another concern. The question as I understood it was that we’ll make a concession over Taiwan, but it actually won’t
moderate the competition. And so this comes back to
the point that I mentioned at the beginning, which is
what do we really believe? What type of China do we face? I mean, one view is that China doesn’t have extensive ambitions,
and it really wants to control Taiwan, and
maybe have greater control over the South China
Sea, which is a mystery. Or the other view is no, that it actually, we’re going to compete on all fronts. They’re going to compete
to push us out of Asia, they might even want to compete with us in the Persian Gulf in
a couple of decades, they’re building the capabilities
that would enable it. So if we’re facing that
second type of China that wants to compete
all the way to the Gulf, put aside to Europe, then
making concessions on Taiwan will not help. And in fact, it will hurt. Because it will both somewhat
increase their capabilities and it will embolden them, and it will raise doubts about US resolve. That’s a possibility. And so that’s why it’s one
of the key uncertainties. And the Taiwan, any
decision about Taiwan has to be made with that possibility in mind. Now, there’s certain ways that we can, it might still be in our interest, even if the competition
becomes more intense, because you’ll still have eliminated what I think’s the most
likely path to war, but then you’d still compete. You’d compete to deter
attacks against Japan, you’d compete to be able to, over time, control the sea lanes
and the Indian Ocean. And so it’s possible it could still be in US security interests even
if the competition continues, but it’s less in our interest than if it actually
moderated the competition. And so once again, it’s
just a different aspect of the trade off in that choice. I increasingly think
that I would be wiling to make the trade, even if it didn’t reduce the overall competition. But I think it’s a very hard judgment. – Any last questions? I see, yeah, right here. Thanks, and there’s one
right behind you, too. – [Student] Is the wild card of Russia significant in this discussion? Given the shared border,
obvious Russia is a wild card, economic issues et cetera. How do you figure that into it, and what’s the probability
of that coming into play, in the discussion?
– Yeah, so questions about Russia and how it fits in, I mean, people have worried over the last couple of decades about
the possibility of, there is a loose alliance
or pseudo alliance between Russia and China. They actually have engaged in some limited joint military exercises. I think that in the end that Russia’s not going to matter very much
in the area, in the region. Chances are, that, for
a variety of reasons, that the Russia/China relationship will pull apart before long. But even if it doesn’t,
Russia is a declining power. And I mean, it has one important asset, and it’s not to be underestimated, which it still has a
very large nuclear force. And we’d have to factor
that into the conversation. But Russia doesn’t have
the conventional assets to significantly help the Chinese in any relevant conflict. And they’re not going to be
an important economic player, except in the oil market, which frankly, they’ve
got about three decades and the oil market’s going to
be pretty much gone anyway. So it’s important to think about, and I think it makes sense
to worry a little bit about a Russia/China alliance, but I don’t think, they’re not going to be a major player in east Asia. – Charlie, I just–
– And once again, I could be wrong, but
just my guess, my hunch. – In the back row.
– I have a question about resolving, like,
the theoretical debate of China’s, like, intentions. So I guess my question is, what factors or issues do you look to in,
like resolving that debate? And do you have any
scholars that you, like, particularly follow when
trying to determine, like, is China a revisionist power? Do they have intentions
beyond regional agenda? – Thank you. – In some ways, no, well,
the reason I started at the beginning with,
two, you’ve got experts on both sides that
don’t agree on this one. By my own personal preference from people I know best, they tend to be more on the moderate side, and think that China does not
aspire to global hegemony. But they could be wrong. It’s partly a theory debate. Because there is this
question about whether to succeed as a major power, China has to dominate its region. Whether to be secure, I don’t think so. So some theorists do,
some theorists don’t. I think that’s something,
just on logical grounds, I can show as wrong. But there may be many non-realists, non-security reasons that
China is more ambitious than just wanting to be
narrowly secure in its region. I mean, if it is, then
it’s a very complicated, then they could be very ambitious. So to the extent that they are, we have to hedge against that. I think it’s one thing I’ve tried to show, but I haven’t gone into in detail, it’s not an all-or-nothing choice. Like, you can have some
dimensions of cooperation, while at the same time, being, you don’t necessarily
have to say committed, but by being intensely defensive. So you could make sure that, you could invest a huge amount in protecting your allies, and if you can do that without making the adversary insecure, you can also make
concessions in various ways. And so I think the most tricky question from a theory perspective is, I would call China more
like a mixed state. It’s a state that’s
certainly driven by security, and likely is driven so much by status, and maybe more than that
to go beyond security. And the question is, how do
you deal with a mixed type? And then it turns out that, analytically, probably in terms of policy terms it’s one of the most
complicated circle to square. And you often can’t do it. I mean in a sense, perfectly,
you have to make trade offs. So you’ll be in a situation where to adequately defend your allies, you have to threaten China, which turns out to be
partly self-defeating, because China is a security-seeking state. But I actually think
that is, analytically, the situation that we’re in, where we don’t know what type they are, we need a robust policy
that’s not going to have, it’s going to involve trade offs that are, none of which is entirely satisfactory because we face that uncertainty. (audience applauding)
– Well, thank you very much, Charlie. – Thank you.

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