March 16, 2017

The Rebalance is Dead! Long Live the Rebalance!

By Hannah Suh, Harry Krejsa and Mira Rapp-Hooper

At a March 14 press briefing, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Asia Susan Thorton laid to rest the “rebalance” or “pivot” to the Pacific — at least in name. Thorton stated that the Trump administration had not determined how to frame its approach to Asia, or decided whether it would craft its own “bumper sticker” replacement phrase. The death of the pivot moniker comes as no surprise, given its close association with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Its official semantic demise naturally raises the question, however, of whether any of the policy initiatives that comprised it will survive, and indeed, whether the Trump administration will seek to develop a whole-of-government strategy for Asia at all.

President Trump could hardly disguise his glee as he withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his first days in office, and this was, of course, the economic pillar of the Obama rebalance to the region. The Trump team has said that it intends to pursue bilateral regional trade deals, but continues to emphasize its “America First” approach to trade, making it hard to see how this administration will advance an affirmative, unifying economic initiative for Asia. On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s mid-March trip will facilitate much-needed bilateral engagement with Japan, South Korea, and China on North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Given the Trump team’s skepticism towards the so-called international order, its lack of interest in democracy and development, and its desire to slash the State Department budget, however, this team may not place the same priority on international institutions or coalition building. Defense, however, may be the rebalance pillar that is likely to see the most continuity. There are several reasons why this is so.

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.

  • Commentary
    • January 20, 2021
    Sharper: Day One

    The Biden-Harris administration will confront a range of national security challenges from the moment it takes office....

    By Chris Estep

  • Reports
    • January 14, 2021
    Navigating the Deepening Russia-China Partnership

    In virtually every dimension of their relationship, cooperation between Beijing and Moscow has increased....

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor & David Shullman

  • Commentary
    • National Endowment for Democracy
    • January 13, 2021
    Mendacious Mixture

    The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on a new challenge to the information ecosystem: the increasing convergence of Russian and Chinese information operations....

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor

  • Commentary
    • January 12, 2021
    Harnessing Multilateralism for Digital Development

    Uneven access to digital technology is magnifying societal inequities around the world....

    By Kristen A. Cordell & Kristine Lee

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia