The White House just declassified its Asia strategy (or "framework"). Let's talk about the details. A thread:

1) In my view, the initial framing is wrong. The strategy aims "to maintain U.S. strategic primacy in the Indo-Pacific." But is primacy realistic? Or sensible?
2) Human rights and democracy are low priorities. The strategy explicitly seeks "primacy in the region while protecting American core values and liberties AT HOME."

Obviously, Trump did not protect our values at home. But why did they not aim to uphold key principles abroad?
3) Most of the assumptions and end states described in the strategy are quite reasonable.

The one I would have added is that competition with China actually hinges on the alignment decisions of regional states. These "swing states" are the center of gravity and merit more focus.
4) On India, there is a tension. The strategy rightly points to India's importance and the administration has done excellent work there.

Yet it also calls for the U.S. to have "preeminence" in the Indo-Pacific, but India to "remain preeminent" in South Asia. Which is it?
5) The military strategy to deal with China focuses on denial within the first island chain - a smart approach.

But this doesn't square with the earlier call for "military preeminence" in the region. Air/sea denial is a wise objective, but it does not equate to regional primacy.
6) On Korea, the strategy promises to "consider negotiations if North Korea takes steps to reverse its nuclear and missile programs."

Of course, these reversals never happened (pauses maybe), but Trump still negotiated. Here strategy and execution diverged substantially.
7) Southeast Asia is the last section, and from my reading of the framework it appears to be the least important.

This will not surprise many regional observers, but I think it is a mistake that reveals the central weakness of the administration's Indo-Pacific approach.
8) Bottom line: A lot of hard work went in to this strategy and there's much on which the Biden team can build.

We should have a vigorous debate about what the strategy got right and wrong, so we can improve on it in the years ahead.…

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More from @ZackCooper

19 Nov 20
What's ahead for Biden in Asia? Here's my take for @LowyInstitute.

Let's go back to the future... In 2016, Biden told an Asian audience: "The better angels in America will prevail." Now it is time to deliver.

Six points drawing on data from Asia: (1/8)…
The Biden team will have to counter continuing questions about US commitment and credibility.

Many in Asia believe that American engagement and influence is declining. In particular, they worry that Washington is looking inward and increasingly adopting America First logic.
But China is in even worse shape internationally; the Communist Party is winning a race to the bottom.

Xi Jinping is unpopular, and unlike Donald Trump, he's not going anywhere soon.

So Joe Biden will have at least a short "window of opportunity" to make some headway in Asia.
Read 8 tweets
29 Jun 20
My new piece @WarOnTheRocks analyzes the White House's China strategy.

I've heard five critiques:
1) Too confrontation for admin critics
2) Too restrained for CCP critics
3) Too transactional for allies
4) Too values-based for Trump
5) Too late to matter…
I want to begin by acknowledging that this is a carefully crafted strategy. It deserves serious debate.

Unfortunately, the administration remains "badly fractured intellectually" on China policy. The authors were saddled with several basic contradictions.…
First, the strategy rejects the "responsible stakeholder" approach and relies on sticks (not carrots) to “compel Beijing to cease or reduce" harmful actions.

But National Security Advisor O'Brien just said "China is not going to change its behavior." So what's the ultimate goal?
Read 8 tweets
20 Jan 20
There’s some must read polling data for Asia watchers just out from @ISEAS (h/t @lindseywford). Here are 8 points that caught my eye… (1/9)…
First, some good news: More Southeast Asian experts think the Indo-Pacific is a viable concept for regional order this year than last (28% in 2020 vs 17% in 2019). In this regard, the administration has made progress in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. (2/9)
But the number of Southeast Asian experts who say that the level of U.S. engagement has decreased significantly has doubled since last year. In fact, it has roughly tripled in Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand. (3/9)
Read 9 tweets
10 Dec 19
Wow. Congress is getting serious about oversight and reporting requirements on the Indo-Pacific in the 2020 NDAA.

Here’s a list of some NDAA reporting requirements related to Asia:
Sec 1238: Report on Russian and Chinese activities in the Arctic from DoD

Sec 1239: Report on malign Russian and Chinese influence from DoD

Sec 1251: New annual reporting requirements on the Indo-Pacific MSI from DoD
Sec 1252: Report on security cooperation with Pacific Islands from DoD

Sec 1253: Report on defense requirements from Indo-Pacific Command

Sec 1253: Report on China competitive strategy from Office of Net Assessment

Sec 1254: Certification of any South Korea drawdown
Read 11 tweets
5 Nov 19
A story of U.S. engagement in Asia in three acts.

Act 1: Today, U.S. released an Indo-Pacific update that begins, “President Donald J. Trump has made U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific region a top priority of his Administration.”…
Act 2: U.S. declines to send the President, Vice President, or Secretary of State to the East Asia Summit or ASEAN meetings.

Here’s who led U.S. delegation to EAS in last decade:
2011: POTUS(P)
2012: P
2013: S
2014: P
2015: P
2016: P
2017: S
2018: VP
Act 3: ASEAN leaders “unhappy” Trump skipped meeting, downgrade own attendance at ASEAN-U.S. Summit.

In response, U.S. “diplomat” criticizes ASEAN for trying to “embarrass the President” and says “this will be very damaging to ASEAN-U.S. relations.”…
Read 4 tweets

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