Conflict
Paragraphs

China’s Yellow Sea strategy has received less scholarly and policy attention than its approaches to the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Indian Ocean. However, China has significant economic and strategic reasons to prioritize its presence in these waters, including ongoing sovereignty disputes with the Republic of Korea (ROK). Chinese military exercises in the Yellow Sea have increased in recent years, with gray-zone activities playing a distant, secondary role to traditional military exercises. Moreover, China’s propaganda approach has been relatively limited and moderate, and thus there is still time to shape Beijing’s thinking and approach to these waters.

Policy Implications

  • While Chinese maritime ambitions are arguably more limited in the Yellow Sea than the South and East China Seas, China’s expanding military capabilities and subsequent uptick in military activity demand a greater policy focus there.
  • The U.S. should pursue a proactive hedging strategy toward China in the Yellow Sea. This could entail seeking cooperation with Beijing to address shared security threats, like North Korean WMD proliferation, while also preparing to respond strongly if China’s ambitions change or if it begins a more extensive coercive campaign for exclusive control of these waters.
  • The U.S.-ROK alliance should adapt to China’s increasing activities in the Yellow Sea by increasing joint monitoring, contingency planning, and consultations about the degree to which the alliance covers the protection of ROK forces, aircraft, and civilian vessels operating in the sea.
All Publications button
1
Publication Type
Journal Articles
Publication Date
Subtitle

China, the Republic of Korea, and the Yellow Sea

Journal Publisher
Asia Policy
Authors
Oriana Skylar Mastro
Number
1
Authors
Noa Ronkin
News Type
News
Date
Paragraphs

Despite their many differences, Taiwan and Ukraine have been portrayed as two fronts in a global struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. The interrelations between the two geopolitical flashpoints took center stage at the recent Yomiuri International Conference, Taiwan and Ukraine: Challenging Authoritarianism. Cohosted by APARC’s Japan Program, the Yomiuri Shimbun, and the Asia Pacific Initiative, the conference was held on January 16, 2023 at the International House of Japan (IHJ) in Tokyo. It examined paths to addressing autocratic challenges to democracy and offered recommendations for coordinated deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region by the United States and its allies.

The forum included two sessions with Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) experts. The first session, moderated by Ken Jimbo, IHJ managing director and API president, featured panelists Oriana Skylar Mastro, FSI center fellow at APARC, and Michael McFaul, the director of FSI. They examined the fallout of the war in Ukraine, the risks of a Taiwan crisis, and their implications for security in East Asia, including Japan. The second session, moderated by Kiyoteru Tsutsui, the deputy director of APARC and director of the Japan Program, featured panelists Larry Diamond, Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at FSI, and Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI. They considered the war in Ukraine and the tensions over Taiwan against the struggle to bolster the liberal international order.

Military Miscalculations, Economic Dislocations

McFaul opened the first session by reviewing some of the lessons from the war in Ukraine. The international community underestimated the Ukrainian military, he said. Putin, however, miscalculated the response of the United States and NATO, on the military side, and the scope of the sanctions the global community of democratic states, including Japan, would be willing to impose on Russia, on the economic side. 

It turned out, noted McFaul, that it was possible to reduce drastically Russian oil and gas coming into Europe, and Russia today has significantly fewer resources to fight Ukraine than it had anticipated. “I think it is very important to look at just how much economic dislocation happened with Russia, a country that was not integrated into the global economic world in the same way that China is,” McFaul said. He pointed out that the international community might also be underestimating the political pressure and dislocation that will erupt if, unprovoked, China invades Taiwan. “It will have very deep economic consequences for the Chinese economy,” said McFaul.

It is important to remember that the international community did not make credible commitments to deterring Russia before 2022, McFaul noted. In the case of China, he emphasized the imperative of considering concrete ways to enhance deterrence against Chinese invasion of Taiwan before military action begins. 

Rethinking Defense and Deterrence

China, however, is not easily deterrable, as Mastro explained in her following remarks. President Xi has been clear from early on that enhancing China’s role on the international stage would be a key part of the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda. Taiwan is a top priority issue in the Chinese Communist Party’s long-term thinking, said Mastro. She reminded the audience that at the recent CCP Congress, President Xi reaffirmed that China will not rule out using force to bring Taiwan under its control. He also elevated Party members with extensive expertise in the joint operational domain and with Taiwan contingencies to the Central Military Commission, the Chinese top decision-making body for military affairs.

I am convinced that if Japan were to commit to fighting with the United States in this contingency, that would be enough to deter China.
Oriana Skylar Mastro

How, then should the United States and its allies approach the question of deterring China? Mastro emphasized three conditions that U.S and Japanese defense policy must meet.

First, whatever the United States and Japan do in the defense realm must have an operational impact. For example, U.S. carriers will do nothing to prevent China from taking Taiwan in a wartime scenario, Mastro argued. “And along those lines, from the Japanese point of view, enhancing defense of the Senkaku Islands does nothing to deter China from taking Taiwan unless Japanese operations are going to be involved directly in stopping a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.”

The second point is that China has to know about any defense changes the U.S. and its allies are making. For instance, if, in peacetime, there is no indication that the Japanese military is engaging in Taiwan Strait transits with the United States and the Chinese do not know about such activities, then they do not enhance deterrence.

Third, deterrence must happen before a war starts. It may seem an obvious point, but if the prevalent view is that, for example, the Japanese public will support the United States once a conflict over Taiwan erupts, then this approach does not deter China. “We have to let the Chinese know now that there is such support,” Mastro stated.

One issue China is concerned about, Mastro noted, is widening a Taiwan contingency. “China only wins Taiwan if the war is short, geographically limited to Taiwan, and only involves the United States, potentially in Taiwan,” she explained. “So I am convinced that if Japan were to commit to fighting with the United States in this contingency, that would be enough to deter China.”

Ultimately, the question before the United States and its allies is: “Do we want a happy China that is undeterred or an unhappy China that's deterred,” Mastro concluded. “Those are our only two options.” Deterrence is expensive and requires tradeoffs, but one thing that is costlier than deterrence is a major war, she pointed out.

“Let’s start thinking about how to actually change the environment with the sense of urgency that we need, because my biggest fear is that we're going to find ourselves in a major war with massive cost,” she urged the audience. There will be sacrifices to make, but the alternative, in Mastro's view, is worse.

Opportunities and Perils for Democracy

In the second session of the conference, panelists Larry Diamond and Francis Fukuyama examined the war in Ukraine and the tensions over Taiwan from the lens of democratic decline and its implications for the liberal international order.

Democracy has been in a global recession for most of the last two decades, yet the picture is not as bleak for democracies as it was just two or three years ago, said Diamond. In the United States, reforms at the state level have occurred, election deniers took control of Congress seats by a much smaller margin than predicted before the 2022 midterms, and extreme election deniers in crucial swing states were virtually defeated. Meanwhile, on the international stage, 2022 spotlighted autocrats’ inevitable shortcomings. In Russia, Putin has catastrophically miscalculated the war in Ukraine. In China, Xi has massively mismanaged the COVID pandemic, and the country’s economic growth is severely impaired.

It's going to be very important that the people of Taiwan see that they're not alone, that the democracies of the world — not just the United States and Japan but Australia and Europe — are with them; it will increase their will to fight.
Larry Diamond

Fukuyama expressed his encouragement by the democratic solidarity shown in response to the war in Ukraine, especially in Europe, within NATO, and in Japan. Germany’s and Japan’s decisions to increase their defense budgets have been remarkable reassuring signals of strength among democracies, he said.

But we sometimes forget that many countries in the Global South and elsewhere do not buy into this narrative, cautioned Fukuyama. Among the big disappointments in this regard is India, he noted, which raises the question of whether the issue at stake is indeed a battle between democracy and authoritarianism.

Indeed, democracies still face intractable challenges, Diamond explained. These include the corrupting influence of dirty money around the world, the trends of de-industrialization and hollowing out of the working class in advanced democracies, and social media, which Diamond sees as the single biggest driver of democratic decline. “I cannot tell you how much damage social media has done to destroy the social fabric of Truth and credibility and polarized society into tribal camps who don't have the same facts,” he said. “We have not found a way to temper that impact and win the battle For Truth.”

Taiwan and Deterrence

When it comes to the question of Taiwan, Diamond says he is worried. “There is going to be a PRC military invasion of Taiwan, probably in this decade, unless it is deterred,” he said. The three most crucial actors in deterring China are Taiwan, the United States, and Japan, he explained. Successful deterrence must involve coordination among all three in multiple arenas — from military cooperation to increased defense capacity and preparedness to impose such heavy costs in response to a Chinese invading force that will change Xi’s calculus.

Diamond pointed out that democracy is about uncertainty, of which there is now plenty in Taiwan as it looks ahead to a January 2024 contentious presidential election. Diamond’s prediction is that "China will intervene however it thinks it can” in Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election, as Xi would certainly prefer to pick up the island peacefully than by force, he said. “I think it's going to be very important that the people of Taiwan see that they're not alone, that the democracies of the world — not just the United States and Japan but Australia and Europe — are with them; it will increase their will to fight.”

Read More

Gi-Wook Shin and Francis Fukuyama at Encina Hall, Stanford, in conversation.
Q&As

A Resurgence of Democracy?

A Conversation with Francis Fukuyama on the Challenges of a Changing Global Order
A Resurgence of Democracy?
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Appointed the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow
News

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Appointed the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow

While at Stanford, Elbegdorj, formerly the president of Mongolia, will focus on examining strategies to support Mongolian democracy in an increasingly polarized geopolitical landscape.
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Appointed the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow
All News button
1
Subtitle

At the Yomiuri International Conference, Freeman Spogli Institute scholars Larry Diamond, Francis Fukuyama, Oriana Skylar Mastro, Michael McFaul, and Kiyoteru Tsutsui examined lessons from the war in Ukraine, the risks of a crisis over Taiwan, and the impacts of both geopolitical flashpoints for defending democracy and for a coordinated approach to deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

-
Soldier stand next to a tank in Ukraine.

The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies is pleased to sponsor a screening of "Freedom on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom" by Oscar and Emmy-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky.

A discussion of the film will follow the screening.

This screening is free and open to all. Registration is required. Attendees are encouraged to wear yellow and blue.

About the Film

"Freedom on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom" depicts the horrible realities of this unprovoked war instigated by Vladimir Putin. It is an exploration of the courage of the Ukrainian people, fiercely determined to stand their ground until 'the last drop of blood'. Demonstrating an astounding ability to unite as a people and defend the sovereignty of their country, Ukrainians show compassion and resilience even when surrounded by death, destruction, and unfathomable war crimes. The film transports viewers through a war that started immediately after Maidan (Revolution of Dignity) in 2014 and continues through the 2022 Russian invasion. Through personal stories of civilians, children, soldiers, doctors, the country's elderly, journalists, religious leaders, and international volunteers, this is a humanizing diary of millions of people whose lives were turned upside down by eight years of conflict.

Parking: Parking at Stanford is very limited! Plan to arrive early to find parking, or use alternative means of transportation. Visit the Stanford Transportation website for information about parking at Stanford.

Ukraine Flag

The Ukraine - Russia Conflict

Learn more about the conflict with expert commentary and analysis from scholars at the Freeman Spogli Institute
Learn More
Film Screenings
Authors
Kim Namseok, Munhwa Ilbo Correspondent
News Type
Q&As
Date
Paragraphs

This article originally appeared in the Korean daily newspaper Munhwa Ilbo on January 2, 2023. It was translated from Korean by Raymond Ha.

In an exclusive interview for the Munhwa Ilbo, Stanford University professors Gi-Wook Shin and Francis Fukuyama had a conversation on a wide range of topics including the war in Ukraine, U.S.-China competition, and North Korea policy.

The world faces a crisis of political leadership as each country pursues its own interests. Fukuyama stressed the importance of robust international institutions, instead of relying solely on great leaders. He pointed to NATO and the U.S.-Korea alliance as examples of institutions that uphold the liberal international order. In terms of the U.S.-China competition, he said without hesitation that “a democracy like Korea…has to make the decision that it is going to be on the side of democracy.” Fukuyama also noted that in the event of an armed confrontation over Taiwan, Korea would almost certainly be pulled in, given the significant U.S. military presence there. He was skeptical about prospects for progress over North Korea, pointing to the long history of failed negotiations and the lack of viable alternatives. “Not every problem has a solution,” he said.

Gi-Wook Shin, who led the interview, observed that the global decline of democracy appears to have hit a turning point, “although it’s too early to say if there will be a rapid recovery…or a more gradual shift.” As for the state of democracy in the United States, he said, “We will have to wait and see what happens in the 2024 presidential election.” Even though Trump’s political influence may be weaker, he observed, “pro-Trump forces are still part of the system.” In terms of Korea’s foreign policy, Shin emphasized that Seoul “should take [the Taiwan] problem much more seriously.” A crisis in the Taiwan Strait “could become the biggest challenge for the Yoon administration’s foreign policy, not North Korea,” and domestic polarization over China policy is one issue that could threaten to “become extremely controversial.”

The interview was held in-person for one hour at Stanford on December 8, 2022, with a follow-up interview held over the phone on December 27.  


[Gi-Wook Shin] Let’s start by looking back on 2022. How would you summarize this year?

[Francis Fukuyama] I think 2022 was a very good year, where we may have bottomed out in this global move away from democracy and toward authoritarian government. The year really started out in February with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which looked very, very threatening. China was on a roll. It looked like they were beating everybody in terms of COVID policy. Then, by the end of the year, the Russians got completely bogged down. China experienced mass protests, and there were protests also in Iran. In America’s elections on November 8, all the pro-Trump forces failed to make gains and, in fact, lost almost everywhere. I think that maybe we will look back on 2022 as the year when this democratic recession that has been going on for over 15 years finally bottomed out.

[GWS] I agree, although it’s too early to say if there will be a rapid recovery toward democracy or a more gradual shift. In the United States, we will have to wait and see what happens in the 2024 presidential election. Former President Trump may be weaker politically, but pro-Trump forces are still part of the system. As for the Ukraine war, many people thought Russia would win quite easily, but now it looks like they are struggling. It’s a big question, of course, but how do you think the war will be remembered in history?

[FF] I think that it is going to be remembered as one of the biggest strategic mistakes made by a great-power leader in a very long time. I think that the mistake is directly due to the nature of the political system. You remember that Vladimir Putin was sitting at the end of this 25-foot table with his defense minister because he was so afraid of COVID. He was extremely isolated during the whole pandemic, and he had already isolated himself in a political system where he doesn’t face checks and balances. That kind of decision-making system makes you prone to make even bigger mistakes, because you don’t have other people to test your ideas against. He was completely uninformed about the degree to which Ukraine had developed a separate national identity and that the Ukrainian people were willing to fight for it. He didn’t have any idea how incompetent his own army was. If he had been in a more democratic country that required him to share power with other people, I don’t think he could have made that kind of mistake.

 

The most important thing is the breakdown of the Chinese economic model. For the past decade, the Chinese model has been to pump a huge amount of money into the real estate sector. That model is collapsing. The other big problem is that they don’t have economic growth anymore.
Francis Fukuyama

[GWS] Putin is struggling, as you said. There are a lot of problems in China, but Xi Jinping secured a third term. Authoritarian leaders elsewhere still hold power. By contrast, I don’t think President Biden has shown powerful leadership at home or globally. I don’t see any strong political leaders in the U.K., France, or Germany either.

[FF] I think that although Xi Jinping may succeed in stabilizing the situation in China with the protests over COVID in the short run, he is in a lot of trouble. He was creating all this social instability with the zero-COVID policy. Now that they’ve started to relax it, I think the number of cases and deaths is going to go up very dramatically, but I don’t think they’ve got much of a choice. I think this has probably damaged the people’s sense of Xi’s authority and legitimacy, and I’m not sure he can recover from that.

The most important thing is the breakdown of the Chinese economic model. For the past decade, the Chinese model has been to pump a huge amount of money into the real estate sector. That model is collapsing. The other big problem is that they don’t have economic growth anymore. Some economists think that they’re actually in a recession, with negative growth. This is like what Japan went through in the 1990s. So much of the Chinese government’s legitimacy has been based on having extremely high growth rates, and that period is over. I don’t see how they get it back, and they certainly won’t by inserting the state into every economic decision and controlling their high-tech sector. Their population is shrinking now. I’m not sure that Xi Jinping, in the longer run, is actually going to look like a very effective leader.

[GWS] But in the short term, say the next three to five years, won’t authoritarian leaders be powerful in comparison? Just as “America First” shows, some say there is a crisis of political leadership among Western democracies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

[FF] I think that apart from President Zelenskyy in Ukraine, we don’t see any really inspiring leaders in Germany or France or the United States. On the other hand, the nice thing about democracy is that it’s an institutional system for managing change. Biden has turned 80, and Trump himself is in his upper 70s. The leadership in Congress and the Democratic Party are all elderly, but they’re all about to change. In the next election cycle, there is going to be a whole new generation of people that are up-and-coming. I don’t think you need a charismatic leader with great vision, necessarily, to run any of the countries you mentioned.

[GWS] Another question is if the United States can provide global leadership. When Trump was defeated, there was a strong expectation for the Biden administration to restore global order and to do much better than its predecessor. I’m not sure whether that’s happening.

[FF] Again, I think that’s why you want to have international institutions rather than being dependent simply on leaders. This gives an institutional basis for continuity in policy. There are all of these alliance structures, like NATO. People thought that NATO was obsolete and was going to go away. It has actually proved to be very durable. The United States has security ties with Korea and Japan that also are quite old, but they’re still durable. It’s interesting that the authoritarian countries have not been able to create anything comparable to that set of alliances. There is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), but all the Central Asian states don’t want to be part of this China-Russia dominated organization. We can’t just depend on great leadership.

Korea should proactively participate in upholding and creating an international order that facilitates a resurgence of democracy. Korea has not really played this role before, but with the 10th largest economy in the world, it is now in a position to play a positive role.
Gi-Wook Shin

[GWS] To add on to that, I think Korea should proactively participate in upholding and creating an international order that facilitates a resurgence of democracy. Korea has not really played this role before, but with the 10th largest economy in the world, it is now in a position to play a positive role.

[FF] There is a set of values that underpin America’s alliances, both in Asia and Europe. Throughout the whole Cold War, the Soviet Union never actually invaded a Western democracy, but that’s what Russia did. NATO has suddenly become very relevant once more. I think that both in Korea and Japan, there is also recognition of a comparable challenge from an authoritarian China. Unless all democracies work together and show solidarity with one another, they could be picked off by these two authoritarian powers.

[GWS] There is a lot of debate about whether China is going to invade Taiwan or not. I have a two-part question. First, could the situation in Ukraine reduce the possibility of China invading Taiwan? Second, if China still invades nevertheless, what should Korea do? This is a difficult question for Korea. It cannot say no to the United States as a military ally, but at the same time, it cannot antagonize China. I think this is the most difficult question for Korea at the moment.

[FF] This is a difficult question for the United States because it’s not clear that Congress or the American people actually want to go to war with China in order to save Taiwan. I think if you ask them a polling question stated like that, probably a majority would say, “No, we’re not going to send our troops to die.” But I think it’s likely that the United States will get dragged into such a conflict one way or the other. Among other things, the Chinese would probably have to preempt some of the American forces that are in the theater. American military personnel will get killed as the Chinese attack unfolds, and I think there will be a lot of political pressure to help Taiwan.

[GWS] How much can the United States be involved? Some in Korea are skeptical that Washington will step in.

[FF] This is really the problem. During the Cold War, we had a good idea of what a war would like look like if it actually happened. The military planning was very concretely designed against certain types of escalation. With China, we don’t have a clear set of expectations for what escalation would look like. It could just start with a Chinese invasion. It could start with a blockade. It could start with something in the South China Sea. It could actually start on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea doing something. If it happens, it’s going to be much more devastating than the war in Ukraine. So much of global production comes out of Asia, and there’s a strong incentive not to let things get out of hand. Whether we have the wisdom to do that is not clear. I also think that people’s expectations and opinions will change once the conflict begins. The moment people see cities being bombed, they will change their minds.

Francis Fukuyama conversing in Gi-Wook Shin's office at Stanford University.
Francis Fukuyama. Kim Namseok/Munhwa Ilbo

[GWS] I also think that a conflict over Taiwan would affect the American people more directly than what is happening in Ukraine. What’s your view on how seriously Korea should be taking this possibility?

[FF] It is likely enough that it is absolutely important for everyone to take it seriously and plan against it. What you want to do is deter China from taking any military action against Taiwan. They’re not going to be deterred unless they see that there’s a response on the other side that is going to raise the cost for them. That’s not going to happen unless people take the scenarios seriously and start thinking about concrete ways that they could help Taiwan or stymie any kind of Chinese attack. I think it is very important for Korea to think this through and think about ways they could support Taiwan and be part of a larger alliance that can push back against China.

[GWS] I keep telling my friends and colleagues in Korea that they should take this problem much more seriously. Taiwan could become the biggest challenge for the Yoon administration’s foreign policy, not North Korea. China policy has become an extremely divisive partisan issue in South Korea, and it could tear the country apart. What advice would you have for President Yoon?

[FF] There’s two things. First is the rhetorical position. Korea should make its position clear in advance that it would oppose Chinese military action and would support the United States, for example. Korea is going to get dragged into this because so much U.S. military equipment is in Korea, and that is going to be moved in closer to the theater. I think making that position clear in advance is important.

The other thing that’s been very clear from the Ukraine war is that democracies are not prepared for an extended conflict. Everybody is running out of ammunition in Europe and the United States is running low on certain types of ammunition. The Ukrainians have used so much of it just in the 10 months they have been fighting. I think that any high-intensity conflict in East Asia is also going to be very costly in terms of supplies. South Korea is in a better position than other countries because it has been preparing for a North Korean attack for decades. Everybody needs to be prepared for an extended conflict. It may not be over in 48 hours.

[GWS] Koreans are quite nervously watching the ongoing escalation of tensions between the United States and China. In the past, the paradigm was “United States for security, China for the economy” (an-mi-gyeong-joong). Now, security and the economy are linked together. The Yoon government is promoting the strengthening of the alliance with the United States, but South Korea faces the fundamental problem of how to position itself as U.S.-China tensions escalate. Do you have any wisdom for Korea?

[FF] I don’t know if it’s wisdom, but I think Korea needs to take a clearer position. Under the previous government, there was a belief that Korea could somehow be halfway between China and the United States. That’s just not a tenable position. The tension between the United States and China has really been driven by China ever since 2013, when Xi Jinping took power. China has become a much more severe dictatorship internally, and it has become much more aggressive externally. You see the influence of the Belt and Road Initiative and the militarization of the South China Sea. In the last 10 or 15 years, China has been picking fights with India, Japan, Korea, and all of Southeast Asia over territorial issues. They built the size of their military much more rapidly than any other great power in that period of time. As a result, the United States and other countries have simply reacted to this. I think that a democracy like Korea cannot pretend that it is somehow in between the United States and China. It has to make the decision that it is going to be on the side of democracy.

[GWS] I agree that an-mi-gyeong-joong is now obsolete, but I think that South Korea must be more sophisticated in its response. As they say, the devil is in the details. On the economy, Seoul can actively work with Washington on areas closely related to security, but it can still partner with Beijing on sectors that are not. There can be a fine-tuned policy.

I now want to ask about North Korea and U.S. policy. I have been saying that the Biden administration policy is one of “strategic neglect,” not the “strategic patience” of the Obama administration. Kim Jong-un keeps testing missiles and provoking, and South Koreans are puzzled by the lack of response from Washington. Why is that? Is it because all the attention is on Ukraine and China?

[FF] Not every problem has a solution, and I don’t think this problem has a solution. You could use diplomacy. You could use military force. You could use deterrence. There are a limited number of possible approaches, and I think none of them are going to work. There has been a long history of negotiation. That has not worked. I think confrontation is not going to work. I think preemption is certainly not going to work. I just don’t think there’s a good solution, so we’ve ended up with trying to ignore the problem by default. Part of the reason North Korea is launching all of these missiles is that they want people to pay attention to them. Ignoring the problem is not much of a solution either, but it’s not as if there is a better solution.

[GWS] I agree with you that for many people in government, North Korea has been a hot potato. You don’t want to touch it because there is no clear solution, and it won’t help your career. But if we just ignore the problem, then five years later it’s going to be worse. What kind of North Korea are we going to face in five or ten years?

[FF] Everybody has been hoping that something would happen internally. It’s fine to think that, but it’s also not taking place. That said, Kim Jong-un is obese and unhealthy. Who knows what might happen?

We've had four elections now where [Trump] was playing a major role in the Republican Party. In three of those elections, he really hurt his own party. He can stir up a third of the electorate that loves him, but it’s never enough to win an election, especially in a swing state.
Francis Fukuyama

[GWS] Let’s now turn to domestic politics here in the United States. I think many Americans were relieved by what happened in the midterm elections last month. Trump’s influence was much more limited than what people thought. But he’s still there, and he’s likely to run again. I think he is still a strong candidate for the Republicans.

[FF] He declared his candidacy, but I think that he is declining very rapidly in influence. We have had four elections now where he was playing a major role in the Republican Party. In three of those elections, he really hurt his own party. He can stir up a third of the electorate that loves him, but it’s never enough to win an election, especially in a swing state. I think he’s gotten crazier in recent months. He is doing so many self-destructive things, having dinner with neo-Nazis and repeating all these conspiracy theories. These are things that no rational candidate would do. The Republicans are going to want somebody that can actually beat the Democrats, and I don’t think it’s going to be him.

[GWS] You don’t expect a rematch between Biden and Trump in 2024?

[FF] This gets into a technical issue, but the Republican primaries are mostly winner-take-all primaries. Any candidate that can get 30% of the vote is likely to be nominated. If you have a Republican field that has several people competing, they may split the alternative vote and Trump may end up winning. I think he still has a good chance of being the Republican nominee. If you’re a Democrat, that’s not the worst thing in the world. It is probably easier to run against Trump than a more normal Republican candidate.

[GWS] Two years is still a long time in politics. You said that Trump is likely to be nominated. Would Biden also run again?

[FF] I think that Biden is going to run again. Part of the problem is in the Democratic Party. It’s not clear who the successor would be. There are a lot of potential new-generation politicians, but I don’t think any of them has enough presence and attention that they can clearly take over the mantle to run as the Democratic candidate. If there is a rematch, I think Biden will win.

[GWS] Now to South Korea. Last June, I did some interviews advocating a parliamentary system, and they received good attention. There is still a lot of hesitancy among Koreans, though. I think there are a few reasons. The first is that we need a strong presidential system to deal with North Korea. There’s no stability if the prime minister keeps changing. Second is that it may drive politicians closer to big business (chaebol) because there’s less direct accountability. What would you suggest for South Korea in terms of institutional reform?

[FF] There are several possibilities even short of a parliamentary system. You can coordinate the presidential and parliamentary terms. It’s still the case that the president has a five-year term, but the legislature is on an even-year term. If you want to have strong government, you need a president that has majority support in the legislature. If they get elected simultaneously on a regular basis, you’re more likely to see strong leadership emerge. In a presidential system, the legislature itself is a check against the president. If you don’t have a strong majority in the legislature, you can’t do anything.

[GWS] That is what is happening right now in Korea.

[FF] In a parliamentary system like the British one, if you have a majority in parliament, you can do what you want. I think the presumption that somehow a presidential system is inevitably stronger than a parliamentary system is not historically correct.

[GWS] Is a parliamentary system maybe one solution to political polarization?

[FF] Sometimes a parliamentary system will have that effect, but the kind of plurality voting system that we have in the United States and in Britain tends to promote polarization. To the extent that you make it possible for third parties to run, that’s probably a better system. If you have more parties and it becomes harder to get a majority in the legislature, that forces coalitions and some degree of power sharing.

Francis Fukuyama 2022

Francis Fukuyama

Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Director of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy, and Professor by Courtesy, Department of Political Science
Full Biography
Gi-Wook Shin

Gi-Wook Shin

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Professor of Sociology, William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea, Director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, and Director of the Korea Program
Full Biography

Read More

Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a press conference
Commentary

In Troubled Waters: South Korea’s Democracy in Crisis

Just as the United States experienced a crisis of democracy under the Trump administration, South Korea underwent a democratic recession during President Moon Jae-in’s time in office. The consequences of this decline have been evident throughout the election and the subsequent presidential transition.
In Troubled Waters: South Korea’s Democracy in Crisis
South Korean soldiers participate in a river crossing exercise with U.S. soldiers.
News

Striking the Right Balance: What South Korea Can Do to Enhance Deterrence in the Taiwan Strait

Despite obstacles and risks, there are good reasons why South Korea should want to increase deterrence against China. In a new article, Center Fellow Oriana Skylar Mastro and co-author Sungmin Cho chart an optimal strategy for Seoul to navigate the U.S.-China rivalry and support efforts to defend Taiwan.
Striking the Right Balance: What South Korea Can Do to Enhance Deterrence in the Taiwan Strait
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the South Korean parliament via video link.
Commentary

In the Wake of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Korea Should Join Its Peers in Defending the Liberal International Order

It is difficult to anticipate how the geopolitical storm set off by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may develop. What is certain is that the international order will not be the same, and this change will have significant repercussions for South Korea.
In the Wake of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Korea Should Join Its Peers in Defending the Liberal International Order
All News button
1
Subtitle

A Conversation with Francis Fukuyama on the Challenges of a Changing Global Order

Stanford Graduate School of Business 
655 Knight Way 
Stanford, CA 94305 

650.497.4507
0
John H. Scully Professor in Cross-Cultural Management and Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford GSB
Professor of Psychology (by courtesy), School of Humanities and Sciences
michele_gelfand_author_photo.jpg

Michele Gelfand is a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Professor of Psychology by Courtesy at Stanford University. Gelfand uses field, experimental, computational, and neuroscience methods to understand the evolution of culture — as well as its multilevel consequences for human groups. Her work has been cited over 20,000 times and has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, National Public Radio, Voice of America, Fox News, NBC News, ABC News, The Economist, De Standard, among other outlets.

Gelfand has published her work in many scientific outlets such as Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Psychological Science, Nature Scientific Reports, PLOS 1, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Research in Organizational Behavior, Journal of Applied Psychology, Annual Review of Psychology, American Psychologist, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Current Opinion in Psychology, among others. She has received over 13 million dollars in research funding from the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and the FBI.

She is the author of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World (Scribner, 2018) and co-editor of the following books: Values, Political Action, and Change in the Middle East and the Arab Spring (Oxford University Press, 2017); The Handbook of Conflict and Conflict Management (Taylor & Francis, 2013); and The Handbook of Negotiation and Culture (2004, Stanford University Press). Additionally, she is the founding co-editor of the Advances in Culture and Psychology Annual Series and the Frontiers of Culture and Psychology series (Oxford University Press). She is the past President of the International Association for Conflict Management, past Division Chair of the Conflict Division of the Academy of Management, and past Treasurer of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology. She has received several awards and honors, such as being elected to the National Academy of Sciences (2021) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2019), the 2017 Outstanding International Psychologist Award from the American Psychological Association, the 2016 Diener Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and the Annaliese Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

CDDRL Affiliated Faculty
Authors
Melissa Morgan
News Type
Commentary
Date
Paragraphs

In October 2022, the Chinese Communist Party elected Xi Jinping for a third term as general secretary, setting Xi on a path to be the longest-serving leader since Mao Zedong’s rule ended in 1976.

The extension of Xi’s rule carries significant implications not only for China, but for the broader Indo-Pacific region and global geopolitical order. No country is more aware of this than Taiwan, which has carefully walked the line between its own autonomy and Beijing’s desire for reunification since the 1940s.

After a summer of rising tensions, many experts believe that Beijing’s timeline for an attempt at reunification is much shorter than conventional thinking has assumed. On the World Class podcast, Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, discusses the prognosis for Taiwan with Oriana Skylar Mastro, an expert on the Chinese military and security, and Larry Diamond, a scholar of China’s sharp power and the role of Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific region.

Listen to the full episode and read highlights from their conversation below.

Click the link for a full transcript of “What We Need To Talk About When We Talk About Taiwan.“

The Likelihood of Invasion


In stark terms, Oriana Skylar Mastro, a center fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, believes there’s a 100% chance China will use some sort of force against Taiwan in the next five years. For the last twenty years, China has been making concerted efforts to modernize its military and increase its capabilities not only to assert force against Taiwan, but to deter intervention from the United States.

In the majority of scenarios, the United States wins in a conflict with China over Taiwan. But the United States also carries a distinct geographic disadvantage. The distance across the Taiwan Strait between the island and mainland China is approximately 100 miles, which is roughly the distance between Richmond, Virginia and Washington D.C. If China moves quickly, PRC forces could take Taiwan before U.S. forces have time to move into position.

When considering possible outcomes in Taiwan, it is equally important to consider the motivations driving Beijing’s ambitions. The leadership on the mainland has been planning and thinking about how to retake Taiwan since 1949. With the modernized capabilities coming online, the balance of power has shifted in China’s military favor, and the cost-benefit calculus favors Beijing’s ambitions. The long-term planning stage is now reaching its end, and the prospects of direct action are increasing.

The clock is ticking. The problem is we don’t know how fast it’s ticking. But we need to move faster than we're moving.
Larry Diamond
Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at FSI

The View from Taipei


Political leaders in Taiwan recognize the growing danger they face across the Strait. In Larry Diamond’s assessment, the end of Hong Kong's autonomy and the suppression of the “one country, two systems” model, the rising military incursions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone and coastal waters, and the whole rising pace of Chinese military intimidation has sobered Taiwan and visibly impacted Taiwanese public opinion.

Concerningly though, while the political elite recognize the real and present danger of the situation, polling of the general Taiwan public suggests that the vast majority of citizens still feel like an attack or an invasion by China is unlikely. Similar majorities suggest that they would be willing to fight in Taiwan’s defense, but volunteering for military service remains at a minimum.

To maximize safety, Taiwan needs to find ways to strengthen itself in its ability to defend, resist, and deter China, while still avoiding any appearance of moving toward permanent independence or any other action that could be deemed by Beijing as a provocation, says Diamond.

There are things that can completely change Beijing's calculus, but it takes a lot of work, and I just don't see us doing the work yet.
Oriana Skylar Mastro
FSI Center Fellow

What the United States Can Do


When it comes to the defense of Taiwan, the strategic crutch hobbling the United States is geography. Most of the U.S. Pacific forces are not in Asia. The majority are in Hawaii and California, as well as a few bases and airfields in Japan. To be able to effectively deter China, the U.S. needs far greater forward deployed military capability in order to be able to either stop or stall the movement of Chinese troops into Taiwan, says Mastro.

Taiwan needs greater onshore military deterrence capabilities as well. One such strategy is the “porcupine approach,” which increases the number of smaller mobile lethal weapons. By Larry Diamond’s assessment, increased citizen participation in military training is also crucial, with an emphasis on weapons training and urban defense tactics. The U.S. could support these aims by overhauling the current system for weapons procurement to speed up the production and delivery of weapons systems not just for Taiwan, but to the benefit of U.S. defense and other contingencies as well. Working with leadership to create strategic stockpiles of food, and energy should also be a priority, says Diamond.

The U.S. also needs to put much more effort into its diplomatic efforts on behalf of Taiwan. Many U.S. allies and partners are reluctant to ostracize China because of economic ties and concerns over sparking their own conflict with China in the future. A key ally in all of this is Japan. If Japan fights with the United States on behalf of Taiwan, it is a guaranteed win and enough to effectively deter China. But much more needs to be done much more quickly in order to secure those guarantees and present them in a convincing way to Beijing.

“The clock is ticking,” Larry Diamond says. “And the problem is we don’t know how fast it’s ticking. “Taiwan is moving in the right direction. But we need to move faster than we're moving.”

Read More

Vladimir Putin at a Victory Day rally in Moscow.
Commentary

Assessing Putin's Invasion of Ukraine

To launch a new season of the World Class podcast, Michael McFaul discusses recent developments of the war in Ukraine and how those will impact Ukraine's future, Russia's standing in the world, and the responses of the global community.
Assessing Putin's Invasion of Ukraine
A Taiwanese F-5 fighter jet is seen after taking off from Chihhang Air Base on August 06, 2022 in Taitung, Taiwan.
Commentary

China’s Huge Exercises Around Taiwan Were a Rehearsal, Not a Signal, Says Oriana Skylar Mastro

Nancy Pelosi’s visit was more pretext than provocation.
China’s Huge Exercises Around Taiwan Were a Rehearsal, Not a Signal, Says Oriana Skylar Mastro
Larry Diamond speaking in the Bechtel Conference Center in Encina Hall
Commentary

"We Have Entered a New Historical Era": Larry Diamond on the Future of Democracy

Speaking at the April 2022 meeting of the FSI Council, Larry Diamond offered his assessment of the present dangers to global democracy and the need to take decisive action in support of liberal values.
"We Have Entered a New Historical Era": Larry Diamond on the Future of Democracy
All News button
1
Subtitle

Larry Diamond and Oriana Skylar Mastro join Michael McFaul on the World Class podcast to discuss China’s ambitions against Taiwan, and how the U.S. and its allies can deter Beijing.

Authors
Noa Ronkin
News Type
News
Date
Paragraphs

A week after Myanmar’s military junta executed four democracy activists, foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded a meeting in Phnom Penh without an agreement about how to push member Myanmar into enacting a crisis resolution plan. Meanwhile, the political, humanitarian, and economic crisis in the country triggered by the coup continues with no end in sight, and the people of Myanmar feel abandoned by the international community.

Scot Marciel, the Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow at APARC, recently examined the criticisms that can be leveled at the world’s response to the ongoing crisis. On July 25, 2022, Marciel testified at a special oral hearing of the International Parliamentary Inquiry for Myanmar (IPI), which brings together members of parliaments from Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas to assess the response of international actors to the crisis in Myanmar and offer recommendations to address the urgent needs in the country. Watch the testimony below:

Read Ambassador Marciel's testimony
Download pdf

Subscribe to APARC newsletters to receive our experts' analysis and commentary.


Chaired by Vice-President of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala, IPI is an initiative of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, a regional network of current and former parliamentarians who use their positions to advance human rights and democracy in Southeast Asia. At the special IPI hearing, Marciel, a career diplomat with extensive experience in Southeast Asia and a former U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, highlighted two fundamental problems with the international community’s response to the crisis in Myanmar.

First, said Marciel, several countries, including influential Southeast Asian nations, have chosen to support the military junta to advance their narrow interests. The second problem, he added, is that even those countries and international organizations that have condemned the junta have, to varying degrees, relied on flawed analysis and conventional diplomatic tools and approaches that do not fit the reality of the situation in Myanmar.

Despite adopting a “five-point consensus” on the crisis in April 2021, ASEAN has failed to fulfill its pledges or take meaningful steps toward pressing the junta to end its atrocities. Unfortunately, explains Marciel, “the ASEAN initiative was stillborn, for two reasons. First, the junta almost immediately reneged on its commitment to implement it, saying it only would consider the five points once it had ‘stabilized’ the situation. And second, the five-point consensus itself did not match the reality of Myanmar.”

Myanmar is not facing a conflict between two legitimate political actors, but rather a national resistance or revolution against an institution that has brutalized the country for decades for its own benefit and that is now waging war against its own population.
Scot Marciel

The trouble, according to Marciel, is that the ASEAN governments as well as other foreign governments have relied on the conventional diplomatic tools of calling for an end to violence and promoting peaceful dialogue, rather than developing an approach that fits the situation on the ground.

The international community needs to rethink its approach, emphasizes Marciel, starting with the understanding that the complex civil conflict in Myanmar is not only a resistance front against the military but also a movement demanding dramatic social and political change. “Myanmar is not facing a conflict between two legitimate political actors,” says Marciel, “but rather a national resistance or revolution against an institution that has brutalized the country for decades for its own benefit and that is now waging war against its own population.”

What could and should the UN and sympathetic governments collectively do to address the crisis? Marciel offers a list of policy recommendations, including stepping up engagement with the National Unity Government (NUG) and key Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), which play a major role in determining the course of Myanmar’s political future, offering training to support nascent local administration efforts in areas controlled by the resistance movement, reconsidering sanctions on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, and more.

Marciel also recently spoke about the Myanmar crisis and the path forward at two public forums, one hosted by the Asia Society and another by the East-West Center in Washington. Watch the recordings of these discussions below:

Read More

Portrait of Scot Marciel on background of Encina Hall with text "Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow"
News

Scot Marciel Appointed Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Marciel, a former senior U.S. diplomat, brings extensive experience in public policy focused on Southeast Asia. His appointment is based at FSI’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.
Scot Marciel Appointed Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Anti-coup protesters hold improvised weapons during a protest in Yangon on April 3, 2021.
News

Shining a Light on Myanmar’s Multidimensional Crises

As the devastating effects of the coup in Myanmar and post-coup conflicts have resulted in escalating humanitarian emergencies, APARC’s Southeast Asia Program and Asia Health Policy Program examine the shifting contours of war and the prospects for a better future for Myanmar’s people.
Shining a Light on Myanmar’s Multidimensional Crises
ASEAN leaders during a Summit discussion.
Q&As

ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus ‘Not Appropriate’ for Myanmar: Ex-US Ambassador

The Irrawaddy spoke to Scot Marciel, former United States ambassador to Myanmar and currently a visiting scholar at APARC, about the current state of regional and international efforts to tackle the Myanmar crisis.
ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus ‘Not Appropriate’ for Myanmar: Ex-US Ambassador
All News button
1
Subtitle

Even those countries and international organizations that have not supported the military junta in Myanmar have relied on flawed analysis and conventional diplomatic tools and approaches that do not fit the reality of the crisis in the country, argues Marciel, the Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow at APARC.

Authors
Noa Ronkin
News Type
News
Date
Paragraphs

More than a year after Myanmar’s military junta seized power in a coup, the military’s concerted offensive operations have failed to crush anti-regime resistance forces and consolidate power in rural areas. The violent deadlock between the military government and multiple opposition groups shows no signs of easing, and the people of Myanmar remain trapped in an escalating political, economic, and humanitarian crisis.

According to the latest report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country has exceeded one million, basic services have collapsed, and more than 14 million people have humanitarian needs.

APARC’s Southeast Asia Program and Asia Health Policy Program bring attention to the political context of the civil conflict in Myanmar and the implications of the multidimensional crisis in the country. This past spring quarter, the Southeast Asia Program dedicated one of its webinars to examining the opportunities and challenges faced by the opponents of Myanmar’s military regime. The virtual discussion featured two experts: Nyantha Maw Lin, an analyst with extensive experience in government affairs, public policy, and political risk assessment related to Myanmar, and Scot Marciel, a career diplomat and former U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar who now serves as a visiting practitioner fellow on Southeast Asia at APARC.

Sign up for APARC newsletters to receive our experts' updates.

A Shifting Civil Conflict

Nyantha described the evolution of the anti-coup movement in Myanmar from its beginnings with protests and civil disobedience campaigns by government workers and civil servants to its current state of armed resistance movement aimed at bringing down the military regime. Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) have played a pivotal role in this shift. These non-state actors have fought the Myanmar military for decades in the borderlands and hold parts of the country under de facto control, sheltering and training tens of thousands of young people.

These resistance groups now present a powerful front of grassroots-level insurgency that is hampering operations by the coup regime. In this collection of self-organized groups, some are working with the National Unity Government (NUG) shadow administration, others with more decentralized networks, but all share the conviction that armed struggle is the only option for dealing with the military regime.

The power dynamic between the military and anti-regime resistance forces is now existential for both sides. “We are looking at what will most likely be a protracted civil conflict in Myanmar,” says Nyantha.

What are the paths toward a better future for Myanmar? One possibility is a shift in the military’s calculus, though it would necessitate a leadership change. Another possibility, according to Nyantha, is that the array of opposition actors can come together and use multilateral platforms to facilitate unprecedented forms of cooperation beyond resistance against the military to establish areas of territorial control and self-governance. “If they can emerge from this process with a new political vision and a roadmap for a more tolerant and inclusive Myanmar, then there is a chance the balance may tip against the military.”

These platforms include the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), which includes representatives from multiple opposition groups. Depending on how dialogues within the NUCC continue, it could generate a new political dynamic in the country and lay the groundwork for a future federal democratic union, notes Nyantha.

 

As long as the military is in power, Myanmar is not going to enjoy peace or stability.
Ambassador Scot Marciel

Historical Grievances, Future Visions

But there remains a lot of work to do to build trust among Myanmar’s traditionally fractious ethnic groups, Ambassador Marciel stresses. This mistrust has historical roots in decades of political disunity among Myanmar’s ethnic minorities amidst struggles for autonomy and self-determination, and in their longstanding grievances toward the state that has privileged the majority Burmans (also known as Bamar). Thus, possibly the biggest weakness of the resistance movement is the lack of a unified vision for establishing civilian rule. “I do think that it is hugely important to bring about more unity to the movement that is resisting the military regime,” says Marciel.

The international community should better understand the complexity of the civil conflict in Myanmar and recognize that the spontaneous revolt underway is not only a resistance front against the military but also a movement demanding dramatic social and political change, Marciel emphasizes.

He, therefore, cautions that the traditional tools of conventional diplomatic thinking – ceasefire, peaceful negotiations, and dialogue — do not currently apply to Myanmar. “At this point, there is no realistic scenario of dialogue leading to some compromise deal. As long as the military is in power, Myanmar is not going to enjoy peace or stability.” The people of Myanmar have suffered for far too long at the hands of the military, and the resistance forces are not interested in a compromise deal that would allow the military to maintain substantial political power, Marciel says. At the same time, the military is also not interested in negotiating.

According to Marciel, the international community should focus on supporting the resistance movement efforts. He also expressed this point in a recent interview with The Irrawaddy. “[T]he best possible scenario is for the military to face so much pressure that they then begin to look for a way out […] I think that maximum pressure on the military, both internally and externally, whether it’s by sanctions or other means, is the best chance of achieving progress, though it won’t be easy.”

To fight a pandemic, collective action is needed. Instead, Myanmar has faced a collective trauma.
Dr. Phyu Phyu Thin Zaw

A Deadly Syndemic

Even before the coup, Myanmar had one of the world’s weakest health systems and one of the least prepared for addressing epidemics and pandemics, according to the 2019 Global Heath Security Index. The devastating effects of the coup have coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, combining into a perfect storm that has brought the country’s already-fragile health system to collapse.

The coup and the post-coup conflicts interact with the pandemic and Myanmar’s fragmented health system in ways that resemble a syndemic, says Phyu Phyu Thin Zaw, a medical doctor, epidemiologist, and health systems researcher now based at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health. The term syndemic refers to the synergistic nature of health and social problems affecting vulnerable communities and contributing to an excess disease burden. It helps explain the dire crises gripping Myanmar’s health system, explains Dr. Thin Zaw.

Thin Zaw, a former visiting scholar at APARC, spoke at a webinar hosted by the Asia Health Policy Program about the impacts of the devastation caused by the coup and the COVID-19 pandemic on Myanmar’s health system and the current opportunities and challenges for response and recovery. She was joined by Nay-Lin Tun, a medical doctor who manages programs that help vulnerable communities in remote and conflict-affected areas of Myanmar to get access to health services.

Since the coup, hundreds of medical personnel and health care workers have been dismissed and subject to violent attacks. Many have escaped to areas under the control of anti-junta forces, leading to a severe “brain drain” or rather “brain hemorrhage” in the health system, Thin Zaw notes. When the third wave of the coronavirus struck Myanmar in July 2021, it hit like a tsunami. Immunization plans were severely interrupted, no quarantine or contact tracing measures were taken, and with shortages of health workers, medicine, and equipment, the health system was soon overwhelmed, with thousands of infections and rising deaths.

“To fight a pandemic, collective action is needed. Instead, Myanmar has faced a collective trauma,” says Thin Zaw. “The coup destroyed the reciprocal trust both horizontally among people and vertically between people and the government.”

Challenges for Humanitarian Response

Myanmar needs humanitarian assistance in every area, but grueling challenges hamper humanitarian relief delivery. International aid groups grapple with shuttered access, high-cost and high-risk operations, and ethical and political dilemmas: Should they stay or exit? Through which channels should they deliver aid? How can they advocate and work with the military junta? How should their money be spent under the military regime?

Dr. Tun, providing a grassroots medical humanitarian perspective on what is happening in Myanmar, described the multiple problems facing providers and patients on the ground. These include a severe shortage of health workers on the frontline, difficulties getting patients to hospitals, lack of essential medical supplies and equipment, COVID-19 infections, and overall increased mortality and morbidity among IDPs. He presented the results of a mixed-methods survey of health care workers conducted in non-military-controlled areas and conveyed their urgent requests for help. 

A Way Forward

With Myanmar’s health system in collapse, this is a time to focus on strengthening primary health care and leveraging the silver lining of the post-coup softening of ethnic tensions to build a federal health education system for inclusiveness, said Thin Zaw. She pointed to the collaboration between the NUG and EAOs-controlled healthcare groups as an encouraging step towards creating a federal health system.

She urged international actors to be realistic about the limits of their influence over the military junta and to create flexible and politically sensitive aid programs with contingency plans. Yet international organizations must continue all efforts to support the delivery of critical services to the people of Myanmar, especially in areas such as food security, emergency health, and COVID-19 response, she said. “Please don’t forget the people of my country,” she pleaded.

Read More

Enze Han with background of Encina hall colonade
News

Rethinking China’s Influence in Southeast Asia: The Role of Non-State Actors and Unintended Consequences

Departing from international relations scholarship and popular media accounts that tend to portray China as a great power intent on establishing a sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellow on Southeast Asia Enze Han argues for conceptualizing China as an unconventional great power whose diverse actors, particularly non-state ones, impact its influence in the region.
Rethinking China’s Influence in Southeast Asia: The Role of Non-State Actors and Unintended Consequences
Portrait of Mary-Collier Wilks
Q&As

Postdoc Fellow Spotlight: Mary-Collier Wilks Explores Power Dynamics and Development Imaginaries in International Organizations

Ethnographer and APARC Postdoctoral Fellow Mary-Collier Wilks unveils how distinct development narratives shape the dynamics of aid chains and international organizations’ delivery of services in Southeast Asia.
Postdoc Fellow Spotlight: Mary-Collier Wilks Explores Power Dynamics and Development Imaginaries in International Organizations
A health worker checks a patient's blood pressure at a clinic in Pokhara, Nepal.
News

New Cross-Country Study Underscores the Importance of Health Workforce Development and Socioeconomic Factors in Affecting Health Outcomes

Analyzing data from 191 World Health Organization member countries, a new study from APARC’s Karen Eggleston indicates that strengthening the health workforce is an urgent task in the post-COVID era critical to achieving health-related Sustainable Development Goals and long-term improvement in health outcomes, especially for low- and lower-middle-income countries.
New Cross-Country Study Underscores the Importance of Health Workforce Development and Socioeconomic Factors in Affecting Health Outcomes
All News button
1
Subtitle

As the devastating effects of the coup in Myanmar and post-coup conflicts have resulted in escalating humanitarian emergencies, APARC’s Southeast Asia Program and Asia Health Policy Program examine the shifting contours of war and the prospects for a better future for Myanmar’s people.

Authors
Chelcey Adami
News Type
News
Date
Paragraphs

More than 90 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Stanford students to consider the question, “What matters most to you and why?” during an event hosted by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) on Friday.

The approximately 600 people in the audience loudly cheered and gave a standing ovation as Zelenskyy was livestreamed from Ukraine onto a large screen in a packed CEMEX Auditorium, prompting the Ukrainian president to smile and shake his head. In September, Zelenskyy became the first Ukrainian president to visit California when he spoke at Stanford during a historic address from FSI.

“It’s a great honor, for the second time, to have a chance to address your community, the community of Stanford University, to students, to professors, to all the Americans who feel support, who are feeling nervous because of our fight for freedom,” Zelenskyy said, speaking through an interpreter. “I’m grateful for your interest and for so many sincere good viewpoints and expressions that I can see.”

While much has changed since September, much has remained the same, Zelenskyy said. “Ukraine is the country where everything is possible … Ukraine is the country who destroyed the myth about the enormous capabilities of the Russian forces.”

During his speech, the Ukrainian president drew a parallel between the deadly mass shooting this week in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman fatally shot 19 schoolchildren and two adults, and the incomprehensible violence inflicted by 18-year-old Russian troops in Ukraine.

“We are living in terrible times when American people express their condolences because of the death of [Ukrainians] at war and we express our condolences because of death” during peacetime in America, he said. “Accept my condolences, please.”

'We Remain Free'


Zelenskyy was introduced by Michael McFaul, director of FSI and former U.S. ambassador to Russia. McFaul thanked Zelenskyy for honoring the Stanford community with his presence and said that Stanford has a long history of engagement with Ukraine, including more than 200 Ukrainians participating in various training programs mostly run through FSI. He noted that many Stanford alumni now work for Zelenskyy.

“I want to thank you, your warriors, and all Ukrainians for leading the fight for democracy, freedom, and sovereignty, and against tyranny, repression, and imperialism, not only in Ukraine but for the entire free world in the fight between democracy and dictatorship, colonialism and independence, and good and evil,” McFaul said. “No nation in the world is sacrificing more than Ukrainians. … In these dark times in Ukraine, around the world, and even here, yes, in my own country, we need heroes. You are a hero, Mr. President, not just for Ukraine, not just for Europe, but for the entire world.”
 

I believe that many of you will indeed help Ukraine in the reconstruction after the war, because this is the biggest project for freedom. Our citizens’ towns are devastated, our seas are blocked, but we remain free.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
President of Ukraine


Several audience members brought Ukrainian flags or wore outfits of bright blue and yellow – the country’s national colors. Gazing out across the audience, Zelenskyy noted people were not wearing armored vests or helmets, nor were they cowering in bomb shelters or wounded by enemy shelling. “Unfortunately, this is not the case for Ukraine,” he said.

Answering the question he first posed to the Stanford audience, Zelenskyy said that what matters most for him is to give his country everything necessary to defend its freedom, such as “the weapons that can help us overcome the might of the Russian army, the sanctions that will stop the flow of money used for the Russian terror finance,” war tribunals, and more.

Zelenskyy said he was inspired after visiting Stanford last September as he considered what the U.S. and Ukraine could accomplish together.

“I believe that many of you will indeed visit Ukraine, help Ukraine in the reconstruction after the war, because this is the biggest project for freedom, and your generation will take its crucial part in it,” Zelenskyy said. “Our citizens’ towns are devastated, our seas are blocked, but we remain free.”

'See the Truth'


More than two dozen people stood in line to ask Zelenskyy a question during the event, oftentimes addressing the Ukrainian president in his own language. Zelenskyy’s responses were often lighthearted, prompting laughter from the energetic early morning crowd. He jokingly told one student that she looked Ukrainian – though she was German – and said she should thank her parents for that. He teased another student for speaking about his youth in the past tense.

Other times, the back-and-forth between Zelenskyy and the audience was more somber. First-year MBA student Olga Chyumanskaya said she is “a young Russian person who shares democratic values [of] freedom, and would like to see my home country develop in a different direction.” The Russian community abroad is working to support Russian independent journalism and Ukrainian refugees, she said, but every day, she asks herself if she did enough. On Friday, she asked Zelenskyy what more she should do.

Zelenskyy told Chyumanskaya that she and other Russians could help pierce the state-sponsored bubble of disinformation that envelops their home country. “You see the truth,” he said. “You get the knowledge in the United States. You can demonstrate to the world which is bigger than Russia, which is bigger than Ukraine, [or] any country, for that matter. The world is big. And we have to remove the frontiers, open the borders, and bring the truth in with our knowledge, with conviction, so much with persuasion.”

School of Medicine student Solomiia Savchuk and computer sciences graduate student Zoe Von Gerlach are co-founders of TeleHelp Ukraine, a telehealth resource initiated by Stanford students to connect Ukrainians in need of medical assistance to U.S.- and Ukraine-based physicians. On Friday, they asked Zelenskyy about how Stanford students can further assist, as well as why activism abroad is important.

Zelenskyy said there’s a need not only for blood and oxygen but also for psychological rehabilitative support now and after the war, in which telehealth resources could greatly help. He encouraged the students to contact McFaul to discuss ways they might connect with Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. He added that students’ activism is “extremely important” in reminding world leaders of the need to support Ukraine, as this war “recognizes no distances.”

In closing the event, Zelenskyy reminded the audience that around the world, some are studying at universities while others are drafted into war and won’t live to write a college thesis.

“That is a terrible story. That’s why I would like to wish to all the students, I would like to wish you a long and interesting life in what you’re doing – in science, in journalism, in art, in whatever [you do],” he said. “I would sincerely like to wish you peace.”

A Ukrainian-language transcript of President Zelenskyy's prepared remarks at Stanford is also available.


 

Read More

Some of the original Ukrainian alumni from the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship gather in Kyiv in 2013.
News

A History of Unity: A Look at FSI’s Special Relationship with Ukraine

Since 2005, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies has cultivated rich academic ties and friendships with Ukrainian scholars and civic leaders as part of our mission to support democracy and development domestically and abroad.
A History of Unity: A Look at FSI’s Special Relationship with Ukraine
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine speaks at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
News

‘Everything is Possible in Ukraine’: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Stanford Community During Historic Visit

President Zelenskyy outlined the steps his administration is undertaking to bring increased digitization to Ukraine, curb corruption and create more equitable access to public services for more Ukrainians.
‘Everything is Possible in Ukraine’: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Stanford Community During Historic Visit
Students from the FSI community gather for a teach-in about the Ukraine conflict at the McFaul residence in Palo Alto, CA.
Blogs

Students Find Solidarity and Community Amidst the Conflict in Ukraine

Four students from the FSI community share their thoughts on the conflict in Ukraine, its implications for the world, and the comfort and solidarity they have felt in communing with one another at Stanford.
Students Find Solidarity and Community Amidst the Conflict in Ukraine
All News button
1
Subtitle

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to the Stanford community in a special video address about his country’s war against Russia for independence, freedom, and global democracy, which he said requires the continued support of all the people of the free world.

Authors
The Irrawaddy
News Type
Q&As
Date
Paragraphs

This interview with Scot Marciel was originally published by The Irrawaddy. Marciel, who served as U.S. ambassador to Myanmar from March 2016 through May 2020, is a visiting practitioner fellow on Southeast Asia at APARC. His forthcoming book, Imperfect Partners: The United States and Southeast Asia, which interprets the region and its relations with the United States historically and at present, will be published by APARC later this year.


Since it seized power in February 2021, Myanmar’s military regime has ignored international calls to end its use of violence, release political prisoners and negotiate with its opponents. Some Western nations have applied sanctions, while powerful neighbors India and China have largely sought to protect their own interests. Regional bloc ASEAN has been split, with some members seeking to engage the junta and others calling for contact with the shadow National Unity Government. The Irrawaddy spoke to Scot Marciel, former United States ambassador to Myanmar (2016-20) and currently a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Walter Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, about the current state of regional and international efforts to tackle the Myanmar crisis.

The Irrawaddy: There have been many tragic stories in Myanmar since the coup. It is not enough to just pressure the regime to change its behavior or to make concessions. Can you talk about how the international community and regional groupings such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should assist the Myanmar people?

Marciel: I would offer two thoughts. First, I don’t think you can expect ASEAN to solve this problem, certainly not by itself. The ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, while it’s done with very good intentions, not only are the points not being implemented, they are actually not appropriate for the situation in Myanmar in my view. So it is a mistake to dwell on the Five-Point Consensus. I don’t really blame ASEAN too much for that because the junta is refusing to be reasonable at all and make any kind of concessions. Second, as Malaysia’s foreign minister has suggested publicly, more engagement with the National Unity Government (NUG) and other figures opposed to the junta is really important. I am pleased to see that [US] Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Zin Mar Aung [the NUG foreign minister, on Aug. 12] in Washington. I think there needs to be more engagement with the NUG and other actors, recognizing that trying to convince the generals to hold talks with those who oppose them is not really a very useful way of going about things.

The Irrawaddy: Do you think the NUG is the best option, aside from Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) and other stakeholders, in terms of whom the US and ASEAN should be engaging with?

Marciel: I know some people have not been fully satisfied with the NUG. I understand that, but it’s certainly one important factor that has a lot more legitimacy than the junta for sure. I think it is useful to engage with the NUG, but also with actors who are seeking to return the country to a democratic and peaceful path.

The Irrawaddy: When we talk about ASEAN there are some criticisms because so far the Five-Point Consensus as you said is going nowhere, but people keep talking about it. We, ourselves, have become the hostages of the consensus. Beyond ASEAN, there has also been some criticism that the US and other Western countries are outsourcing the Myanmar crisis to ASEAN. We know that ASEAN is toothless and powerless, and so far has achieved little on Myanmar. Why has the West outsourced the problem to ASEAN?

Marciel: To be fair, at least for the United States, I don’t think the United States is necessarily expecting ASEAN by itself to solve the problem. The truth is I don’t know any outside player that can solve the problem. ASEAN can help. This goes back to, among other things, the Five-Point Consensus. It’s not just that the points aren’t being implemented, they really aren’t appropriate for the situation. A ceasefire… OK If the military stops all violence and allows peaceful protests, that would be useful. But does anyone really think that is going to happen? Second, dialogue, my sense is, again I can’t speak for the Myanmar people, but it seems people aren’t interested in negotiating and compromising with the military junta. They want them out of power. And I think the international community should be supporting those efforts, rather than proposing and calling for some kind of dialogue that is completely unrealistic, at least at this time.

Maximum pressure, both internally and externally, on Myanmar’s military, whether it’s by sanctions or other means, is the best chance of achieving progress, though it won’t be easy.
Amb. Scot Marciel

The Irrawaddy: In the past, the US has played a major role in promoting democracy, freedom and federal union in Myanmar. You know in 2008-09, we had Kurt Campbell, one of the key architects of the pivot to Asia and of course specific Myanmar policies of principled engagement, and the carrot-and-stick approach, where sanctions were imposed but also with the incentive that if reforms took place, the sanctions would be eased. There was very consistent and intense communication with the-then regime and the opposition in Myanmar. Do you think that, in coordination with ASEAN, the US can work on Myanmar issues with the same vigor and energy as it did in the late 2000s?

Marciel: It’s a good question. It’s very clear that the US and the Biden administration remain very supportive of efforts to help the country go back to democracy and peace and federal union. But my sense is that it’s hard to figure out what they can actually do to make that happen. There’s not a lot of easy choices, whether it’s the United States or ASEAN, because the generals do not seem interested in doing anything positive, they are just holding onto power. We’ve seen what they are willing to do to their own people for the sake of holding power. And it narrows the space for diplomacy, certainly. I would have a very hard time if I were still in the government saying we should engage with the junta and try to create incentives for them because I think there is no chance, absent them feeling much more pressure, that they are willing to seriously consider changing their approach.

The Irrawaddy: Do you think there should be more sanctions, more pressure, including maybe an arms embargo? What about ASEAN and other countries like China, Thailand, and India?

Marciel: There is no great option right now. I don’t believe there is, at this point at least, any opportunity for dialogue that will return the country to a democratic path or democratic federalism. I don’t think the military can restore stability and govern the country effectively. So the best possible scenario is for the military to face so much pressure, that they then begin to look for a way out. So yes, I think maximum pressure, both internally and externally, on the military whether it’s by sanctions or other means is the best chance of achieving progress, though it won’t be easy.

The Irrawaddy: We have a powerful neighbor, China, which shares a long border with Myanmar. We also have our neighbor Thailand, which is absorbing refugees, migrant workers, and asylum seekers. Because of the crisis, they are also sharing the burden. Obviously, China is always supportive of those in power, whether it is the regime or a democratic government. If China and Thailand don’t make any moves, don’t apply any external pressure, it is hard to see any policy of maximizing pressure on the regime working. Do you agree?

Marciel: I agree that there are limits in terms of external pressure. That’s why there is no easy answer. It seems that China is willing to support the junta even though nearly the entire population of Myanmar opposes that. I don’t think that is likely to change. On Thailand, I hope that the Thai authorities will see that the longer the military is in power, the more problems there are going to be across the border, including refugees and instability. And the Thais, I think, will have an interest in pressing in their own way, pressing the military to look for a way out, because otherwise this crisis is going to continue and Thailand’s going to suffer from some of these cross-border challenges, including very serious humanitarian issues.

The Irrawaddy: We have heard that the regime is not happy with the idea of—the wording is quite sensitive—a humanitarian corridor. But Thailand will have to play a key role if cross-border assistance and humanitarian assistance are to reach a large number of Myanmar people. What are your thoughts on that, as the US has made at least four high-ranking official visits to Thailand since the coup? Should the Biden administration engage and cooperate with the Thai government to provide assistance?

Marciel: There is a lot of discussion between the US and Thai officials on this. I don’t know the substance of those discussions. I am not sure what exactly has been said. But to me the United States and Thailand, even if we may have somewhat different views on the coup and the junta, we should try to find a way to work together at a minimum to address the serious humanitarian need right along the Thai border and just across the border. You know it is not easy for Thailand as a neighbor of Myanmar having to deal with the junta. But I think there are ways that this could be done carefully and I assume that these discussions are happening between the United States and Thailand. I hope that they lead to greater and more successful efforts to get humanitarian assistance to the border and across the border on behalf of Myanmar people.

The Irrawaddy: Not only Thailand but, since 1988, the US has also been one of the more generous countries in taking Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers from the Thailand-Myanmar border. This time, again, we see the educated people, the middle class, technicians, professionals, artists, media, and IT people leaving Myanmar. It is a brain drain for Myanmar, but a brain gain for the countries they go to. Do you agree that those people are hugely beneficial to those societies?

Marciel: Yes, I agree. I think, the US processing of…I hate to sound bureaucratic, but you know working to welcome refugees is not a fast process, because there are so many refugees around the world who are seeking asylum in the United States and other places. The US does, as you said, have a long record of accepting and welcoming refugees from Burma/Myanmar. I expect that will continue. I mean, it serves one aspect. A lot of people want to go back to the country and contribute, but right now the conditions aren’t right. For those who definitely want to leave, I think the United States will continue to welcome them. But there is a process because there are so many refugees around the world now.

The Irrawaddy: In Myanmar, as in any country, the people need a professional military, but not the one we have right now. That’s why people have taken up arms against it and the regime. You wrote an article about the Myanmar military last year. Can you talk about reform in the military and security sector?

Marciel: It is too bad that the situation has reached the point that people feel like they have no choice but to take up arms. I don’t judge them for that. It is unfortunate. But the military took away the peaceful option for people to protest or express their views against the junta. It is understandable why a number of people have taken up arms. I wrote the article because I was hearing from some people in the region and around the world saying well, the Myanmar military is an essential institution and one of the country’s few unifying institutions. I disagree. In theory, it should be a unifying institution, but it hasn’t been one. It’s been one that has been a source of so much division and so much conflict. I am sure that there are individuals in the military who would like to work in a professional military but, at least at the leadership level, the culture of brutality and impunity is so deeply ingrained that I don’t think you can reason with these generals. I think Myanmar does need a military, but a dramatically reformed military that will be answerable to the civilian government and that, over many years, will adopt a very different culture and will respect human rights instead of waging war on the people.

Phot of Scot Marciel

Scot Marciel

Visiting Practitioner Fellow on Southeast Asia, APARC
Full Biography

Read More

Portrait of Mary-Collier Wilks
Q&As

Postdoc Fellow Spotlight: Mary-Collier Wilks Explores Power Dynamics and Development Imaginaries in International Organizations

Ethnographer and APARC Postdoctoral Fellow Mary-Collier Wilks unveils how distinct development narratives shape the dynamics of aid chains and international organizations’ delivery of services in Southeast Asia.
Postdoc Fellow Spotlight: Mary-Collier Wilks Explores Power Dynamics and Development Imaginaries in International Organizations
Kate Imy
Q&As

How Feminist Military History Sheds Light on Colonial Rule and Warfare

In this interview, Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellow on Southeast Asia Kate Imy discusses her research into identity in the twentieth-century British imperial world and her current book project on the colonial roots of winning "hearts and minds" in war, specifically focusing on Malaya and Singapore.
How Feminist Military History Sheds Light on Colonial Rule and Warfare
Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a press conference
Commentary

In Troubled Waters: South Korea’s Democracy in Crisis

Just as the United States experienced a crisis of democracy under the Trump administration, South Korea underwent a democratic recession during President Moon Jae-in’s time in office. The consequences of this decline have been evident throughout the election and the subsequent presidential transition.
In Troubled Waters: South Korea’s Democracy in Crisis
All News button
1
Subtitle

The Irrawaddy spoke to Scot Marciel, former United States ambassador to Myanmar and currently a visiting scholar at APARC, about the current state of regional and international efforts to tackle the Myanmar crisis.

Subscribe to Conflict
Top