Trump, China, and the Dual Crisis in America’s Asia Policy
A dual crisis haunts America’s Asia policy at a time when China is challenging the United States-led regional order. Early visits to the region by senior Trump administration officials, along with intense attention to the North Korean nuclear problem, point to an illusory continuity in Asia policy. Political squabbling at home and ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rob Washington of the senior attention and resources needed to blunt China’s rise. This is the crisis of strategic distraction. At the same time, an erratic administration has undermined allied confidence in the credibility of our commitments in the Western Pacific, as our friends begin to question America’s long-term reliability as a trustworthy ally. This is the crisis of American credibility. To discuss this important strategic issue, join AmCham for a Power Breakfast on November 29 with former US Ambassador to Vietnam David B. Shear.
The United States and its allies need all the diplomatic leverage they can muster as a surging China attempts to reshape the Asian region to suit its great power interests. But America’s dual foreign policy crises threaten to squander this leverage. The crisis of strategic distraction invites Beijing to fill the gaps between US commitments in Asia and the insufficient resources we devote to fulfilling those commitments. The crisis of credibility invites our potentially dispirited allies and partners to either sit on the fence or gravitate towards Beijing, opening further gaps for China to fill. Unsurprisingly, China’s President Xi Jinping is already seeking to fill these gaps by portraying China as the new standard-bearer for global free trade and Asian regional order.
Given the current distaste in both Washington and Beijing for an across-the-board confrontation or general war, these crises set the stage for the peaceful erosion of American power in Asia. It doesn’t have to be like this. The right thing for America to do is to implement a strategy of peacetime competition in which we compete for influence with China on the basis of a coherent, whole-of-government strategy designed to maximize our diplomatic and strategic leverage. Our allies and partners can bear with us not by bandwagoning with China, but by helping us close the gaps in American influence. Rather than waiting for Washington to return to normal, allies should be taking the initiative to build their own capabilities and strengthening cooperative ties among themselves.
About the guest speaker:
David B. Shear serves as a Senior Advisor for McLarty Associates and advises clients on matters throughout Asia. He previously served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs from 2014 to 2016. Prior to 2014, Ambassador Shear served for 32 years in the Foreign Service, most recently as the US Ambassador to Vietnam. He also served in Sapporo, Beijing, Tokyo, and Kuala Lumpur, as well as in Washington where he served in a number of senior State Department roles.
Ambassador Shear was a Rusk Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy from 1998-1999. He is the recipient of the State Department’s Superior Honor Award and the Defense Department’s Civilian Meritorious Service Award for his work in US-Japan defense relations. Ambassador Shear graduated from Earlham College and has a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has attended Waseda University, Taiwan National University, and Nanjing University, and he speaks Chinese and Japanese.
EVENT: America’s Asia Policy
DATE: Wednesday, November 29
TIME: 8:30am – 10:00am
PLACE: Pan Pacific Hotel Hanoi, 1 Thanh Nien Road
COST: VND 650,000 (members); VND 900,000 (non-members)
Attendees at this event will enjoy a full breakfast buffet during the discussion. Don’t miss this opportunity to welcome back Ambassador Shear and hear about one of today’s most important foreign affairs topics. Please register your participation in this event by clicking on the button below or by calling the AmCham office at (84) 24.3934.2790.