May 8: A Book Talk with Michael Sobolik on “Countering China’s Great Game: A Strategy for American Dominance”

May 8: A Book Talk with Michael Sobolik on “Countering China’s Great Game: A Strategy for American Dominance”

Wednesday, May 8, 2024 from 12:00PM – 1:00PM (ET)

In-Person (RSVP here) and Webcast

About this event

The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Michael Sobolik on his new book, Countering China’s Great Game: A Strategy for American Dominance. This timely publication challenges the prevailing views on US-China relations by arguing that America is currently losing a new cold war to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Sobolik, a senior fellow in Indo-Pacific studies at the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), draws upon his extensive experience to propose a bold plan for American dominance. The book focuses on deconstructing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which Sobolik describes as a geopolitical gambit rather than an economic project. He outlines how the United States can exploit the BRI’s vulnerabilities and fortify its global strategic position. This discussion will explore the historical context of the CCP’s strategies, the current geopolitical dynamics, and the necessary steps for the United States to secure a 21st (make superscript) century defined by American leadership. Join us to gain critical insights into the complex dynamics of global power and strategy.

This event will be moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao.

The event will be held at the GTI office located at 1836 Jefferson Place NW in Washington DC (approximately one block from the Dupont Circle Metro). Doors will open at 11:30 AM, and the event will begin at 12:00 PM. If you plan on attending in-person, please RSVP by May 6, as seating is limited. Light refreshments will be provided. Please direct questions or concerns to Research Associate Adrienne Wu at awu@globaltaiwan.org.

**Media: Please contact Adrienne Wu at awu@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.

The Author:

Michael Sobolik is a senior fellow in Indo-Pacific studies at the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC). His work covers American and Chinese grand strategy, regional economic and security trends, America’s alliance architecture in Asia, and human rights. Sobolik also hosts Great Power Podcast, AFPC’s show about great power competition and US-China relations. His new book, Countering China’s Great Game: A Strategy for American Dominance, was published by Naval Institute Press in 2024. Sobolik’s analysis has appeared in the Washington PostForeign PolicyPolitico, Newsweek, National Review, Jane’s Defence Weekly, and RealClearDefense. Prior to joining AFPC, Michael served as a legislative assistant in the United States Senate from 2014 to 2019. While in the Senate, Sobolik drafted legislation on China, Russia, India, Taiwan, North Korea, and Cambodia, as well as strategic systems and missile defense. Sobolik is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where he studied political philosophy as an undergraduate. He also earned his Master of International Affairs degree in American grand strategy and US-China relations at the Bush School of Government and Public Service.

The Moderator:

Russell Hsiao
 is the executive director of GTI, senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. He is a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He previously served as a senior research fellow at The Project 2049 Institute and National Security fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007 to July 2011 and a special associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the US Trade Representative. Hsiao received his JD and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University’s Journal of Law and Technology. He received a BA in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.

Event Summary 

On May 8, 2023, the Global Taiwan Institute hosted a talk with Michael Sobolik to discuss his new book, Countering China’s Great Game: A Strategy for American Dominance. The event was moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao. Throughout the conversation, Sobolik discussed the historical context of the CCP’s strategies, the current geopolitical dynamics between the United States and China, and what Sobolik describes as the “second Cold War.” Sobolik stated that the aim of his book is to draw the realities of the current US-China relationship into the consciousness of the American public.

When introducing his book, Michael Sobolik began by outlining its three main arguments. His first argument is that the US-China relationship goes beyond that of an adversarial relationship to a systems-level struggle in the ideological and political realms. His second argument–which he noted has caused some controversy–is that the United States is losing this “second Cold War” because it is not acting on the offensive. Sobolik’s third argument is connected to the current state of China’s economy and the impact of the one child policy on China’s demographic trends. Sobolik posits that the damaging impact of these economic and demographic trends will only fully reveal themselves as issues for the PRC in the next decade. According to Sobolik, the period before the impact of these economic and demographic trends is the most crucial since it is a window of opportunity for China to lock in strategic gains. As a result, Sobolik argues that the United States must act on the offensive now, rather than continuing to act in a reactive way.

Although it focuses on China, Sobolik leads his book with a story about Taiwan, positioning Taiwan as a modern version of the barrier between East and West Germany during the first Cold War. While noting the imperfection of this analogy, Sobolik asserts that Taiwan is the frontline of defense in a second Cold War—because if the CCP successfully invades Taiwan and brings it under the sovereignty of the PRC, they will not stop there. Advocating  for more people to see the PRC under the CCP as an imperialist power, Sobolik argues that while China under the CCP is highly ideological, it is still an inheritor of a dynastic foreign policy and strategic culture that has existed before the Communist regime. Additionally, Taiwan—as an island with strategic deep sea berths and connection to the First Island Chain—is of great strategic importance to China’s “great game.” Thus, in the event of a successful takeover of Taiwan, China would challenge the United States’ strategic interests. He then went on to discuss the ideological challenge that Taiwan’s vibrant democracy poses to the CCP’s ideological doctrine. Sobolik argues that by exercising its independent democracy and governance, Taiwan directly undermines the CCP’s commonly disseminated perspective that only the CCP can make and maintain China’s greatness. 

When discussing China’s strategic culture, Sobolik points to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, formerly known as “One Belt, One Road,” 一帶一路) as a global imperialist project representative of China’s strategic culture. Sobolik argued that the goal of the BRI is to reorient global economic policy away from the West and towards the East. While the press may be distracted by the big visual outcomes of BRI infrastructure, the main purpose of the BRI and its resulting projects is to act as a means of policy coordination. Sobolik argued that within the goals of the BRI, one can see China gaining a foothold in strategic chokeholds and checkpoints on the global stage to create a shift away from Western influence. According to Sobolik, China’s definitions of Zhongguo (中國, “central country”) and tianxia (天下, “all under heaven”), which generally posit that China’s political influence should match its civilisational hegemony, form the basis of China’s strategic culture. In comparison, Sobolik criticized recent trends in US strategic culture, in which American leaders emphasize multilateralism as an end unto itself, rather than as a means to an end. He stressed that when the goal is to secure America’s interests, multilateralism is not an inherent good and America must lead in order to win. 

When discussing China on the world stage, Sobolik emphasized that the CCP does not create and foster allies in the Western understanding of the word, instead preferring to utilize a modern day tribute system, partly through BRI, that aims to prove China’s influence to its people as a form of legitimacy. To this end, Sobolik raised the possibility of India aiding the United States to buttress China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. 

During the Q&A portion of the talk, Sobolik answered questions on Trump’s strategy on China and Taiwan. He also discussed the importance of funding Ukraine and how participation in NATO bolsters the United States’ credibility, ultimately providing security for Taiwan and the rest of the world. Sobolik ended the conversation by reiterating the importance of Taiwan when it comes to maintaining and securing US security interests globally, as well as the urgent need for the United States to act proactively in the region to ensure its strategic interests.

This summary was written by GTI Spring 2024 Intern Uma Baron.

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