An American Strategy for Asia

Photos of the event can be viewed here.

Event Summary by Victoria Sorhegui:

Daniel Blumenthal, Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke with Professor Bruce Jentleson and numerous Duke University students and community members about current and future US-China relations through an American Grand Strategy speaker event on Tuesday January 15, 2019. He discussed many “hot topics”, including the rise of Chinese influence and power globally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and China’s “one belt, one road” initiative. Blumenthal commented on China’s ever-increasing influence and growing technological capabilities, and the importance of US military presence in the region. Much of the public has become concerned about China’s prominence globally and their activities in the South China Sea, questioning if a zero-sum game is necessary when dealing with President Xi, but Blumenthal was quick to note the growing global economy which was possible partly due to attempts at Chinese cooperation.

Blumenthal also spoke greatly about how our current, while somewhat cohesive global state, is more complicated than the global state during the Cold War. The United States and China have competed for many years regarding geopolitical influence close to China and our US military domain, exercises of power, and technological capabilities engage in this competition in some manner. For example, Blumenthal discussed quarrels between the US and China regarding the building of islands in the South China Sea and how it violates International Law. We have also seen great Chinese interest in the tech industry, which sparked many questions from our audience regarding artificial intelligence and cyber-warfare, and how these rather new strategic areas of interest may impact the US and the world in the near future. According to Blumenthal, technology is the one sector in which the US and China truly intertwine and compete, more so than the economy.

When discussing the “one belt, one road” initiative that China has recently implemented, Blumenthal reflected on how, although it aims to expand Chinese global influence, the initiative is a miniscule threat in comparison to others. Regarding the initiative, Blumenthal discussed China’s attempt to gain allies and support from weak states and elites with little believed success because of the limits of the projects. China’s singular, most important issue that it focuses on is its battle with American influence in the pacific region, but the US is known to be involved globally, limiting America’s focus on dealing with the China problem. Consequently, Blumenthal noted, China currently has the advantage if America continues to use its resources in numerous engagements globally. Nevertheless, America’s strong alliances will also help it to persevere and continue holding some influence in Asia.

Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations. Mr. Blumenthal has both served in and advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade. From 2001 to 2004, he served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the Department of Defense. Additionally, he served as a commissioner on the congressionally-mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission since 2006-2012, and held the position of vice chairman in 2007. He has also served on the Academic Advisory Board of the congressional U.S.-China Working Group. Mr. Blumenthal is the co-author of “An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century” (AEI Press, November 2012).