Tuesday, September 1 from 10:00 AM-11:00 AM (EST)
The Global Taiwan Institute is pleased to invite you to a book talk with Abraham M. Denmark on his new book, U.S. Strategy in the Asian Century: Empowering Allies and Partners. While much has been made in recent years of the rising strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific, the author argues that US strategy toward the region remains in flux. According to Denmark, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under the Obama administration, faced with a rising, increasingly emboldened China, the Trump administration has largely relied on unilateral efforts to achieve its goals. In U.S. Strategy in the Asian Century, Denmark contends that this approach is insufficient, arguing instead for increased US support for and engagement with allies and partners in the region.
The event webcast will be broadcasted live on our website and YouTube on Tuesday, September 1 at 10 AM (EST). Questions for the panel may either be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the chat function on the YouTube page.
Abraham M. Denmark is Director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a Senior Fellow at the Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and worked as Senior Vice President for Political and Security Affairs at The National Bureau of Asian Research, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and held several positions in the US Intelligence Community. He has testified multiple times before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Denmark’s commentary has been featured in several major media outlets, including Foreign Affairs, CNN, National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Economist, the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and the Atlantic. He holds an MA in International Security from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and received a BA in History with Honors from the University of Northern Colorado.
On September 1, 2020, Abraham M. Denmark, the director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and senior fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, joined the Global Taiwan Institute’s Executive Director Russell Hsiao to talk about his new book, U.S. Strategy in the Asian Century: Empowering Allies and Partners. In his book, Denmark discusses how the US strategy towards the Indo-Pacific remains in flux, despite the region’s rising strategic importance in recent years. Denmark, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under the Obama administration, contends that increased support for and engagement with allies and partners in Asia will help the United States achieve its goals.
Denmark began by discussing his motivation for writing this book, which was to challenge the prevailing sense of the current administration’s skepticism of the US’ alliances and partnerships in Asia. He argued that the US-led liberal international order has been largely successful, allowing countries in Asia to prosper. However, to ensure the long-term success of this system, Denmark argued that the US must stick to its principles and values. The deepening questions about the reliability of US power as well as China’s rise have created uncertainty for the future. According to Denmark, China is not interested in dominating the international sphere; rather, China wants to ensure that its interests are met on its own terms and for the rest of the world to live in harmony with its decisions. Denmark contended that the best way for the United States to compete with China is to empower its allies and partners to contribute to US political and economic values and principles, thus upholding the liberal international order.
Hsiao then asked how the United States should convince China that preserving the existing order is in its interests. According to Denmark, China’s approach to the international system is complex. In some areas, China demonstrates support for the existing system, especially when it comes to nonproliferation. To this end, Denmark explained that competition and cooperation between the US and China are not mutually exclusive and will likely only intensify in the future. Denmark further encouraged the US to continue underscoring its principles, participating in international institutions, and forming partnerships between its allies to reach shared goals. For instance, strengthening alliances with countries like Taiwan will help to promote US interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
Subsequently, Hsiao asked Denmark to comment on the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell’s recent Taiwan policy speech. Denmark said he was glad that the Trump administration finally made a statement that clarified its stance on Taiwan and has pledged to promote economic dialogue between the two countries, but found the speech to be consistent with previous administrations’ policies toward Taiwan. Denmark agreed with the US’ intention to support Taiwan’s bid for participation in international organizations. But given the Trump administration’s broader lack of interest in international institutions and its decision to withdraw from the WHO, little can be done about supporting Taiwan’s bid at the present moment. Denmark argued that the best way for the US to influence organizations like the WHO is to actively participate in them and advocate for allies and partners like Taiwan.
During the QnA session, Denmark elaborated on how US-Taiwan relations contribute to strengthening alliances in Asia. He contended that the mere existence of Taiwan helps to uphold the liberal international order, as Taiwan is already committed to the principles and values of international law, institutions, and norms. To amplify Taiwan’s voice, Denmark suggested negotiating bilateral agreements between the US and Taiwan to help diversify its economy. By his estimation, the threat of conflict between the US and China is low, and the US does not need to clarify its commitment to defend Taiwan in the case of invasion. Denmark asserted that retaining ambiguity on the commitment to defend Taiwan is in both the US and Taiwan’s best interests because so far, China has been deterred.
The final question focused on recent domestic developments in Asia, such as Shinzo Abe’s resignation and Thailand’s anti-monarchy protests, prompting Denmark to highlight that while local politics can complicate alliances, it is up to the US to adjust to changing circumstances. Ultimately, he argued, changing politics within different countries should not affect US alliances and partnerships in the long term.
This summary was written by GTI Fall 2020 Intern Emilie Hu.
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