February 17, 2022

NOTEWORTHY: Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States

By Lisa Curtis, Emily Kilcrease, Martijn Rasser, Chris Dougherty, Jacob Stokes, Joshua Fitt, Alexander Sullivan, Samuel Bendett, and Kelley Eckels Currie

Experts from the Center for a New American Security weighed in with in-line analysis of the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States that was released by the White House in mid-February.

The Biden-Harris Administration has made historic strides to restore American leadership in the Indo-Pacific and adapt its role for the 21st century.

"The release of this strategy at the height of the Russia/Ukraine crisis demonstrates that the defining national security issue of the United States remains strategic competition with China. China continues to try to circumvent global norms and rules, employ economic coercion for geopolitical gain, and engage in increasingly aggressive military behavior, including against Taiwan, India, and in the South and East China Seas. This strategy lays out a blueprint for working with allies and partners to meet these challenges and shows the Biden administration understands the critical importance of U.S. engagement and leadership in this vital region." (Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow and Director, Indo-Pacific Security Program)

In the last year, the United States has modernized its longstanding alliances, strengthened emerging partnerships, and forged innovative links among them to meet urgent challenges, from competition with China to climate change to the pandemic.

"The Indo-Pacific Strategy is designed to provide Washington's affirmative vision for the region. It is, intentionally and explicitly, not a China strategy. That said, the full strategy makes clear that the United States sees China's behavior as the primary force undermining the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. It states, 'The PRC is combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological might as it pursues a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and seeks to become the world’s most influential power.' That such an assessment by the United States government is hardly considered newsworthy shows how far the debate about China's ambitions has come in recent years." (Jacob Stokes, Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program)

"From the longer strategy doc: 'Our objective is not to change the PRC but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates, building a balance of influence in the world that is maximally favorable to the United States, our allies and partners, and the interests and values we share.' On the economic front, one could read this as a signal that direct negotiations with China on core issues of contention, such as subsidies, are not seen as realistic in the short-term. It also reflects that work of the Administration to develop shared approached with key partners, namely EU and Japan, on these issues first." (Emily Kilcrease, Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics, and Security Program)

It has done so at a time when allies and partners around the world are increasingly enhancing their own engagement in the Indo-Pacific; and when there is broad, bipartisan agreement in the U.S. Congress that the United States must, too.

"This is correct at the level of general principles. But the broad, bipartisan agreement is being tested right now as leaders in Congress try to hammer out a consensus version of a major piece of legislation designed to improve the U.S. competitive position vis-a-vis China in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Debates around the bill show there are still significant differences of opinion about how to turn general principles into concrete actions. Many 'devils' still lurk in the details." (Jacob Stokes)

This convergence in commitment to the region, across oceans and across political-party lines, reflects an undeniable reality: the Indo-Pacific is the most dynamic region in the world, and its future affects people everywhere.

That reality is the basis of the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States. This strategy outlines President Biden’s vision to more firmly anchor the United States in the Indo-Pacific and strengthen the region in the process. Its central focus is sustained and creative collaboration with allies, partners, and institutions, within the region and beyond it.

The United States will pursue an Indo-Pacific region that is:

1. FREE AND OPEN

"It is notable that the strategy leads with a normative pillar focused on governance and values rather than one focused on security and deterring military aggression. Compare that decision with the normative elements of the China-Russia Joint Statement from earlier this month—including the two autocracies' assertion that every country should define 'democracy' for itself—and it is clear that differing visions for governance constitutes a central aspect of the contest over order in the world's most dynamic region." (Jacob Stokes)

"Retaining the core 'free and open' concept is a strong indicator of continuity & an important signal about values. Especially good to see that 'investing in democratic institutions' is the first element. This is an area where the United States and its partners should have a natural comparative advantage, but at a policy-making level, we remain overly constrained by state-to-state frameworks. See ASEAN comment in this regard." (Kelley Currie, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program)

Our vital interests and those of our closest partners require a free and open Indo-Pacific, and a free and open Indo-Pacific requires that governments can make their own choices and that shared domains are governed lawfully. Our strategy begins with strengthening resilience, both within individual countries, as we have done in the United States, and among them. We will advance a free and open region, including by:

  • Investing in democratic institutions, a free press, and a vibrant civil society
  • Improving fiscal transparency in the Indo-Pacific to expose corruption and drive reform

"Including anti-corruption at a high level in this strategy is a good move, as is connecting it (in the full document) to the much-more-detailed U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption released in December. This Indo-Pacific strategy should have reiterated that 'improved...transparency in the Indo-Pacific' also includes the United States, which is a haven for dirty money from across the globe. Both this document and the anti-corruption strategy focus a lot on building capacities and tools, but as always where entrenched interests are concerned, the key factor is the political will to use them. Where anti-corruption really ranks in Washington's priorities will only be borne out in practice, and remains to be seen." (Alexander Sullivan, Adjunct Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program)

  • Ensuring the region’s seas and skies are governed and used according to international law
  • Advancing common approaches to critical and emerging technologies, the internet, and cyber space

"Technological leadership—how a country invents, innovates, and deploys technologies to compete economically and to secure its interests—by the United States and its allies and partners will have outsized influence over whether a free and open Indo-Pacific is achievable and sustainable." (Martijn Rasser, Senior Fellow and Director, Technology and Security Program)

2. CONNECTED

A free and open Indo-Pacific can only be achieved if we build collective capacity for a new age. The alliances, organizations, and rules that the United States and its partners have helped to build must be adapted. We will build collective capacity within and beyond the region, including by:

  • Deepening our five regional treaty alliances with Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the Philippines, and Thailand

"From the outset, the Biden Administration has placed a special focus on revitalizing U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region. They rightly see those relationships as a competitive advantage relative to China, which, despite moving closer to partners like Russia and Pakistan, still lacks a comparable network of close political and security relationships." (Jacob Stokes)

  • Strengthening relationships with leading regional partners, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands
  • Contributing to an empowered and unified ASEAN

"ASEAN is definitely the weak link in this strategy. It embodies both the unwillingness of regional countries to be forced into a choice between the United States and China, and the ideological tensions in the region between democratic aspirations and authoritarian tendencies. A strategy for the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia that relies heavily on ASEAN is a recipe for cognitive dissonance and frustration. Just look at the Burma situation and Hun Sen's chairmanship. ASEAN's internal divisions mean it is a weak foundation on which to build a strategy focused on building democratic institutions and challenging China's export of its authoritarian model." (Kelley Currie)

  • Strengthening the Quad and delivering on its commitments

"The commitment to strengthening the Quad is one of the most important pillars of this strategy. The U.S. must work collectively with these three democratic powers to make the sustainment of a free and open Indo-Pacific a reality. Last Friday’s Quad Ministerial was yet another example of the priority the four nations place on this new grouping as a forum for taking collective action on issues like vaccines, critical and emerging technologies, climate change, infrastructure, cyber security, space, and other areas." (Lisa Curtis)

  • Supporting India’s continued rise and regional leadership

"Just as Trump’s Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework highlighted the critical role India plays in the broader Indo-Pacific region, Biden’s strategy also acknowledges that nurturing the U.S.-India bilateral relationship is a necessary component of its Indo-Pacific strategy. The Trump plan is more explicit about the U.S. objectives of working with India to preserve maritime security and countering Chinese influence and sets forth a deliberate goal of accelerating India’s rise. While Biden’s strategy may be less explicit vis a vis India, the steady tempo of bilateral engagements and a commitment to continue the 2 +2 format of engagement are signals that the Biden team wants to continue the strong momentum in U.S.-India strategic ties built during the Trump years." (Lisa Curtis)

  • Partnering to build resilience in the Pacific Islands
  • Forging connections between the Indo-Pacific and the Euro-Atlantic

"The world does not need this neologism. The parallelism to Indo-Pacific doesn't work: there is no European Ocean. 'Euro-' is a cultural descriptor that excludes Atlantic nations in Africa or South/Central America. They should have used "transatlantic community" and left 'Euro-Atlantic' on the cutting room floor." (Alexander Sullivan)

  • Expanding U.S. diplomatic presence in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands

"The Pacific Islands are mentioned three times in this section alone. The Trump administration's Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific also referenced the Pacific Islands, namely that it was in Washington's interest to ensure that the Pacific Islands 'remain aligned with the United States.' This appears to signal that Washington will view the Pacific Islands as a higher strategic priority than during the previous administration, though it will be interesting to see how this translates into concrete action. Notably, Secretary Blinken was in Fiji when the White House released the strategy on Friday. Blinken's Fiji visit is the first by a cabinet-level U.S. official in nearly forty years." (Joshua Fitt, Associate Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program)

3. PROSPEROUS

The prosperity of everyday Americans is linked to the Indo-Pacific.

"This strategy's success will depend a lot on whether or not a majority of Americans agree with this statement. Washington policymakers have to do a better job explaining 'what's in it for me?' to the American public." (Martijn Rasser)

That fact requires investments to encourage innovation, strengthen economic competitiveness, produce good-paying jobs, rebuild supply chains, and expand economic opportunities for middle-class families:

"Just for fun, let's look at the preamble of the TPP that the United States negotiated and agree to: 'ESTABLISH a comprehensive regional agreement that promotes economic integration to liberalize trade and investment, bring economic growth and social benefits, create new opportunities for workers and businesses, contribute to raising living standards, benefit consumers, reduce poverty and promote sustainable growth.'

Traditional trade and investment liberalization objectives are downplayed in the current economic strategy, reflecting the prioritization of resiliency and equitable distribution of the benefits of trade. The strategy seems to view those goals as in tension with one another. Indeed, the word 'exports' does not appear at all in this strategy. 'Exporter' is used once, to be absolutely fair." (Emily Kilcrease)

1.5 billion people in the Indo-Pacific will join the global middle class this decade. We will drive Indo-Pacific prosperity, including by:

  • Proposing an Indo-Pacific economic framework, through which we will:
    • Develop new approaches to trade that meet high labor and environmental standards

"A year in to the term and trade policy experts are still at a loss to explain how a 'worker-centric trade policy' will look different than past agreements. Presumably, an element of this will be robust labor enforcement mechanisms, such as were included in USMCA and were supported by significant reforms in the Mexico labor market. It remains fundamentally unclear whether any partners in the region would have the political appetite to make similarly significant reforms without the inducement of enhanced access to the U.S. market. If the United States wants to enhance labor and environment standards, it seems to be taking a step backwards by not doing so in the context of a comprehensive trade negotiation in which it has significant leverage to push for such standards." (Emily Kilcrease)

  • Govern our digital economies and cross-border data flows according to open principles, including through a new digital economy framework

"If the Administration were serious about this, we could be well on our way to an agreement already. The TPP included the best-in-class digital trade chapter when it was signed, and the United States agreed to a slightly improved version of the TPP digital trade text in the USMCA. The United States also has a digital trade agreement with Japan.

The point is, there is a ready template to negotiate on digital trade rules, and the vast majority of the key countries have already agreed to a U.S. approach to digital trade. And they have done so on a binding, rules-based basis. Anything less than a USMCA style agreement that includes binding rules on core principles (eg, open data flows, non-discrimination of digital goods) should be seen as a huge missed opportunity." (Emily Kilcrease)

  • Advance resilient and secure supply chains that are diverse, open, and predictable

"This aspiration may be in tension with other U.S. policy goals. COVID wreaked havoc on Asian supply chains—but so did years of capricious U.S. trade and export control policy. Building resilient supply chains involves U.S. self-restraint. Regional partners may also wonder how much 'diverse' and 'open' supply chains include the dreams of reshoring manufacturing, e.g. in semiconductors, that periodically intoxicate Washington." (Alexander Sullivan)

  • Make shared investments in decarbonization and clean energy
  • Promoting free, fair, and open trade and investment through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), including in our 2023 host year
  • Closing the region’s infrastructure gap through Build Back Better World with G7 partners

"The United States & G7 have neither the funds nor the capability to compete with even the scaled back Belt & Road at a dollar-for-RMB level. Need to focus on how clean infrastructure (i.e. Blue Dot Network), and building capabilities of governments across the region—especially in SE Asia and the Pacific Islands—to ensure they are able to leverage BRI and other infrastructure assistance in ways that truly benefit them, including by reducing corruption and malinvestment." (Kelley Currie)

4. SECURE

For 75 years, the United States has maintained a strong and consistent defense presence necessary to support regional peace, security, stability, and prosperity. We are extending and modernizing that role and enhancing our capabilities to defend our interests and to deter aggression against U.S. territory and against our allies and partners. We will bolster Indo-Pacific security, drawing on all instruments of power to deter aggression and to counter coercion, including by:

  • Advancing integrated deterrence

"One of the major critiques of Integrated Deterrence as the purported centerpiece of the next NDS is that it's inherently not a defense activity. Rather, it should be front-and-center in interagency documents such as this. And yet it gets one mention, with no follow-up on how it will actually be implemented. Instead, as is nearly always the case with these documents, there are myriad semi-connected initiatives thrown together by different parts of the interagency, without much apparent consideration given to actually integrating them into a deterrent posture. This seems like a major wasted opportunity to explain what integrated deterrence means and how the administration seeks to implement it. It almost looks to me as though they said, 'wait a minute. . . did we mention integrated deterrence?' and then threw it in a bullet point as an afterthought." (Chris Dougherty, Senior Fellow, Defense Program)

  • Deepening cooperation and enhancing interoperability with allies and partners

"Working closely with allies and partners to deter Chinese aggression has taken on greater importance as China increases provocative military actions toward Taiwan, steps up incursions on the India-China border, and engages in gray zone activity in the maritime space. The U.S. must consider ways to incorporate allies and partners, including India, into its force deployment strategies, operational planning, exercises, and naval maneuvers and deployments. As the U.S. seeks to deploy more forces and establish a more robust and persistent forward presence in the Indo-Pacific, it will need to rely on allies and partners to assist in this effort." (Lisa Curtis)

  • Maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait

"Mentions of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as a core objective have shown up regularly in U.S. statements as well as those issued jointly with a range of allies and partners. Reiterating the point again here helps signal the issue's vital importance for American strategy toward the region. It also reflects mounting concerns about China's provocative and destabilizing actions targeting Taiwan." (Jacob Stokes)

  • Innovating to operate in rapidly evolving threat environments, including space, cyberspace, and critical- and emerging-technology areas

"Coordinating with allies on the rapidly-changing emerging and critical technologies is crucial to maintain both the qualitative edge against potential adversaries, and to share successful approaches to the development, implementation and fielding. This potentially includes including our allies in key deliberations and decision-making involving resourcing, funding, crafting, and implementing policy for national security priorities like space and cyberspace activity. Greater clarity about the roles and responsibilities that U.S. and allies are set to undertake would be welcome to offset significant adversary leadership in certain critical and emerging technology." (Samuel Bendett, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and Security Program)

  • Strengthening extended deterrence and coordination with our ROK and Japanese allies and pursuing the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

"Both China and North Korea are rapidly building bigger and more sophisticated nuclear and missile arsenals. Those developments have made ensuring the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence commitments for South Korea and Japan more difficult. The policy challenge for Washington will be figuring out how to strengthen the so-called 'nuclear umbrella' and related elements of conventional deterrence without further accelerating regional arms racing dynamics or undermining nonproliferation aims. The upcoming National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review should provide additional details on how the Biden team plans to handle these issues." (Jacob Stokes)

  • Continuing to deliver on AUKUS
  • Expanding U.S. Coast Guard presence and cooperation against other transnational threats
  • Working with Congress to fund the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and the Maritime Security Initiative

5. RESILIENT

The Indo-Pacific faces major transnational challenges. Climate change is growing ever-more severe as South Asia’s glaciers melt and the Pacific Islands battle existential rises in sea levels. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict a painful human and economic toll across the region. And Indo-Pacific governments grapple with natural disasters, resource scarcity, internal conflict, and governance challenges. Left unchecked, these forces threaten to destabilize the region. We will build regional resilience to 21st-century transnational threats, including by:

  • Working with allies and partners to develop 2030 and 2050 targets, strategies, plans, and policies consistent with limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius
  • Reducing regional vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation
  • Ending the COVID-19 pandemic and bolstering global health security

INDO-PACIFIC ACTION PLAN

To implement this strategy, we will pursue ten core lines of effort in the next 12 to 24 months:

DRIVE NEW RESOURCES TO THE INDO-PACIFIC

Building shared capacity requires the United States to make new regional investments. We will open new embassies and consulates, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, and increase our strength in existing ones, intensifying our climate, health, security, and development work. We will expand U.S. Coast Guard presence and cooperation in Southeast and South Asia and the Pacific Islands, with a focus on advising, training, deployment, and capacity-building.

"Tech diplomacy should be a key focus area to realize the related goals of the Free and Open pillar and several of these lines of effort. I'm surprised it isn't mentioned." (Martijn Rasser)

We will refocus security assistance on the Indo-Pacific, including to build maritime capacity and maritime-domain awareness. We will also expand the role of people-to-people exchange, including the Peace Corps. Within the U.S. government, we will ensure we have the necessary capacity and expertise to meet the region’s challenges. Throughout, we will work with Congress to ensure that our policy and resourcing have the bipartisan backing necessary to support our strong and steady regional role.

LEAD AN INDO-PACIFIC ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK

We will launch, in early 2022, a new partnership that will promote and facilitate high-standards trade, govern the digital economy, improve supply-chain resiliency and security, catalyze investment in transparent, high-standards infrastructure, and build digital connectivity—doubling down on our economic ties to the region while contributing to broadly shared Indo-Pacific opportunity.

"The President's East Asia summit announcement of the IPEF in October was 51 words. This is....51 words. Slightly different words but hard to call that progress. If one wants to be fair, the full strategy has a greater number of words but arguably no further detail, as the additional words are about mostly about the importance of working with partners rather than providing a strategy for how one actually goes about doing that." (Emily Kilcrease)

REINFORCE DETERRENCE

The United States will defend our interests, deter military aggression against our own country and our allies and partners—including across the Taiwan Strait—and promote regional security by developing new capabilities, concepts of operation, military activities, defense industrial initiatives, and a more resilient force posture.

"There's not much new here, either in the document as a whole, or in the defense section. The administration has made some significant strides with AUKUS, access agreements with Japan, and in the clear statements of Japanese and Australian support for defense of Taiwan. But their request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative in the FY2022 budget was laughably small, and the pace of change in DoD remains glacial. A teacher of mine once told me, "talk is cheap. It takes money to buy whiskey." These goals are mostly laudable, but it will take big budgetary shifts to make them happen, and those shifts have yet to appear.

"This is pretty thin gruel for those wanting a clearer statement about where U.S. defense strategy toward the Indo-Pacific is headed under this administration. These are utterly banal statements that could mean anything or nothing and, per my previous comment, have no dollar signs attached. Where's a forceful declaration of the need to rebuild 'friendly' shipbuilding and merchant marine capacity to reduce over-reliance on Chinese firms and ships? What kinds of capabilities and concepts? What sorts of activities? Where are the actual investments in more resilient posture?" (Chris Dougherty)

We will work with Congress to fund the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and the Maritime Security Initiative. Through the AUKUS partnership, we will identify the optimal pathway to deliver nuclearpowered submarines to the Royal Australian Navy at the earliest achievable date; in addition, we will deepen cooperation and enhance interoperability through a concrete program of work on advanced capabilities, including cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and undersea capabilities.

"Important to remember that AUKUS is about much more than submarines. Also, this program of work will start to bear fruit well before the first subs come online." (Martijn Rasser)

STRENGTHEN AN EMPOWERED AND UNIFIED ASEAN

The United States is making new investments in U.S.-ASEAN ties, including by hosting ASEAN leaders for a historic U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit—the first-ever to be held in Washington, D.C. We are committed to the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum, and will also seek new ministerial-level engagements with ASEAN.

"See earlier comment, but this is very worrying. What is the plan B if ASEAEN continues to be problematic as a partner? How do you strengthen democratic institutions by partnering so closely with an organization that includes Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Brunei—none of which are functioning democracies—and where the most democratic states have serious political challenges?" (Kelley Currie)

We will implement more than $100 million in new U.S.-ASEAN initiatives. We will also expand bilateral cooperation across Southeast Asia, prioritizing efforts to strengthen health security, address maritime challenges, increase connectivity, and deepen people-to-people ties.

SUPPORT INDIA’S CONTINUED RISE AND REGIONAL LEADERSHIP

We will continue to build a strategic partnership in which the United States and India work together and through regional groupings to promote stability in South Asia; collaborate in new domains, such as health, space, and cyber space; deepen our economic and technology cooperation; and contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific. We recognize that India is a like-minded partner and leader in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, active in and connected to Southeast Asia, a driving force of the Quad and other regional fora, and an engine for regional growth and development.

DELIVER ON THE QUAD

We will strengthen the Quad as a premier regional grouping and ensure it delivers on issues that matter to the Indo-Pacific.

"This vision for the Quad should be the template for a larger grouping that includes other allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and North America." (Martijn Rasser)

The Quad will play a leading regional role on COVID-19 response and global health security, delivering on its investment to provide an additional one billion vaccines to the region and to the world. It will advance work on critical and emerging technologies, driving supply-chain cooperation, joint technology deployments, and advancing common technology principles. The Quad will build a green shipping network, and will coordinate the sharing of satellite data to improve maritime domain awareness and climate responses. Its members will cooperate to provide high-standards infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands and will work to improve their cyber capacity. The Quad Fellowship will formally launch in 2022, recruiting its first class of 100 students from all four countries to pursue graduate degrees in STEM fields in the United States beginning in 2023. The Quad will continue to meet regularly at the leader and ministerial levels.

"A long-term goal, in addition to increasing the number of students that participate, should be to have all four countries host these fellowships." (Martijn Rasser)

EXPAND U.S.-JAPAN-ROK COOPERATION

Nearly every major Indo-Pacific challenge requires close cooperation among the United States’ allies and partners, particularly Japan and the ROK. We will continue to cooperate closely through trilateral channels on the DPRK. Beyond security, we will also work together on regional development and infrastructure, critical technology and supply-chain issues, and women’s leadership and empowerment. Increasingly, we will seek to coordinate our regional strategies in a trilateral context.

"Elevating the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral to one of 10 core lines of effort is a smart decision. Japan and South Korea are America's closest allies in the region (along with Australia), and they share many bedrock interests and values. Washington has played a crucial role—and had some successes—facilitating trilateral cooperation, especially on shared security concerns like North Korea. But bitter bilateral disputes between Japan and South Korea over historical issues and related economic rows have prevented more extensive cooperation. South Korea will elect a new president in March, which could provide an opportunity to reset Japan-ROK ties and, by extension, allow the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral to reach its full potential." (Jacob Stokes)

PARTNER TO BUILD RESILIENCE IN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS

The United States will work with partners to establish a multilateral strategic grouping that supports Pacific Island countries as they build their capacity and resilience as secure, independent actors.

"A renewed U.S. focus on the Pacific Islands comes after years of relative American neglect for these smaller states. During that time, China made significant economic and political inroads there. Washington worries that Beijing's activities in the region could result in what Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council's Indo-Pacific Coordinator, called 'strategic surprise' that allows China to develop a military base or access agreement far out into the Pacific Ocean from which to project power. As the strategy recognizes, though, effective U.S. economic and diplomatic engagement in the Pacific Islands has to focus primarily on non-military issues related to human security, economic growth, and climate and environmental resilience." (Jacob Stokes)

Together, we will build climate resilience through the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility; coordinate to meet the Pacific’s infrastructure gaps, especially on information and communications technology; facilitate transportation; and cooperate to improve maritime security to safeguard fisheries, build maritime-domain awareness, and improve training and advising. We will also prioritize finalization of the Compact of Free Association agreements with the Freely Associated States.

SUPPORT GOOD GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY

We will support Indo-Pacific governments’ capacity to make independent political choices by helping partners root out corruption, including through foreign-assistance and development policies, leadership at the G7 and G20, and a renewed role in the Open Government Partnership. We are also partnering with governments, civil society, and journalists to ensure they have the capability to expose and mitigate the risks from foreign interference and information manipulation. The United States will continue to stand up for democracy in Burma, working closely with allies and partners to press the Burmese military to provide for a return to democracy, including through credible implementation of the Five Point Consensus.

"Bearing in mind that civil society in many of these countries is often working directly at cross purposes to authoritarian or authoritarian leaning governments, what is the plan when support for an anti-corruption effort in, say, Singapore runs headlong into some other strategic imperative? Likewise, with Burma, the administration has yet to recognize or provide meaningful support to the National Unity Government more than a year after the 2021 coup. By continuing to act as if ASEAN's utterly failed Five Point Consensus is a real thing, they are signaling continued willingness to sublimate democracy and human rights to great power competition with China—a problem that plagued U.S. policy in the previous administration and is another point of continuity." (Kelley Currie)

SUPPORT OPEN, RESILIENT, SECURE, AND TRUSTWORTHY TECHNOLOGIES

We will promote secure and trustworthy digital infrastructure, particularly cloud and telecommunications vendor diversity, including through innovative network architectures such as Open RAN by encouraging at scale commercial deployments and cooperation on testing, such as through shared access to test beds to enable common standards development. We will also deepen shared resilience in critical government and infrastructure networks, while building new regional initiatives to improve collective cybersecurity and rapidly respond to cyber incidents.

__________________________________________________

From the full strategy, p. 5:

Our collective efforts over the next decade will determine whether the PRC succeeds in transforming the rules and norms that have benefitted the Indo-Pacific and the world. For our part, the United States is investing in the foundations of our strength at home, aligning our approach with those of our allies and partners abroad, and competing with the PRC to defend the interests and vision for the future that we share with others. We will strengthen the international system, keep it grounded in shared values, and update it to meet 21st-century challenges. Our objective is not to change the PRC but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates, building a balance of influence in the world that is maximally favorable to the United States, our allies and partners, and the interests and values we share. We will also seek to manage competition with the PRC responsibly.

"This entire section distills a US-China framework that Biden officials have at times called 'responsible competition.' Explicitly ruling out regime change as a goal is wise. Most importantly, it comports with the reality that, while US policy can influence China's external behavior, it has little influence over how China as a society develops. Forswearing attempts to change the PRC may also, at the margin, assuage Communist Party anxieties that partially underlie its aggressive behavior." (Alexander Sullivan)

We will cooperate with our allies and partners while seeking to work with the PRC in areas like climate change and nonproliferation. We believe it is in the interests of the region and the wider world that no country withhold progress on existential transnational issues because of bilateral differences.

Authors

  • Lisa Curtis

    Senior Fellow and Director, Indo-Pacific Security Program

    Lisa Curtis is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at CNAS. She is a foreign policy and national security expert with over 20 years of service in...

  • Emily Kilcrease

    Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics and Security Program

    Emily Kilcrease is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at CNAS. Her research focuses on the U.S.-China economic relationship; alignment...

  • Martijn Rasser

    Senior Fellow and Director, Technology and National Security Program

    Martijn Rasser is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS. Prior to joining CNAS, Rasser served as a senior intelligence officer a...

  • Chris Dougherty

    Senior Fellow, Defense Program

    Chris Dougherty is a Senior Fellow for the Defense Program at CNAS. His primary areas of research include defense strategy, operational concepts, and force planning. He combin...

  • Jacob Stokes

    Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program

    Jacob Stokes is a Fellow for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, where his work focuses on U.S.-China relations, Chinese foreign policy, East Asian security affairs, an...

  • Joshua Fitt

    Associate Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program

    Joshua Fitt is an Associate Fellow for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at CNAS. He focuses on U.S. East Asian security strategy and specializes in Japanese and Korean penins...

  • Alexander Sullivan

    Adjunct Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program

    Alexander Sullivan is an Adjunct Fellow in the Indo-Pacific Security Program, where he focuses on US-China relations, maritime security, regional military modernization and U....

  • Samuel Bendett

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    > Samuel Bendett is an Adviser with CNA Strategy, Policy, Plans and Programs Center (SP3), where he is a member of the Russia Studies Program. His work involves research on...

  • Kelley Eckels Currie

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program

    Ambassador Currie served as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the U.S. Representative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Prior to he...