Economic integration has become extensive within Asia and between Asia and other regions, including the United States. But the political-security side of the story has been very different. PRC trade initiatives have faced skepticism for their possibly political motives, including cultivating economic dependence that can be used for political leverage on many issues. The United States has pursued the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a means to promote trade agreements among a group that includes mostly market democracies. China has been excluded, in large part on “values” grounds and views the TPP as potentially a U.S.-led device for containment and a means to counter China’s growing dominance in an economically integrated East Asian Region.
More broadly, expanding economic ties between many Asian states—and even the United States—and China have coexisted with growing frictions and expectations that more serious conflict was possible, likely or inevitable in relations with China. Reflecting and contributing to this pattern have been: disputes in the South China, East China and Yellow Seas, uncertainty in Taiwan about what would happen if cross-Strait negotiations turned to political issues and sovereignty, “hedging” strategies by many Asian states that have sought closer security ties with the U.S. in response to a more powerful and assertive China, and the much-discussed U.S. “strategic pivot” or “rebalancing” toward Asia.
This conference will address: whether the apparent disjunction in economic and political-security affairs is real, significant and likely to endure; what the pattern portends for international relations in Asia; and how the U.S. and regional states could respond to protect and advance their interests.