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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
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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

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

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Melissa Morgan
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For many people, nuclear weapons feel like something out of a history book rather than a news headline, a remnant left over from the era of go-go boots and rotary phones rather than the age of social media and quantum computing.

But Vladimir Putin’s veiled threats of a possible tactical strike against Ukraine are a stark reminder that nuclear weapons are still a major factor in strategic defense and deterrence policies.

In a geopolitical landscape like this, the perspective of scholars like Rose Gottemoeller, formerly the Deputy Secretary General of NATO and currently the Steven C. Házy Lecturer at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, is more important than ever.

Currently, she is acting as an advisor to the Strategic Posture Commission of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee and to the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Strategy Administration (NNSA), but this is far from the first time she has been called on from Capitol Hill or the executive branch.

From her start as a Russian language major at Georgetown University, Gottemoeller’s expertise in arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, and political-military affairs has made her an invaluable resource to fellow academics and policymakers alike as they work to tackle the nuanced diplomatic challenges of our times.

A Missed Phone Call and a New Career

Gottemoeller’s most recent government service came with a few hiccups. In December of 2008, she was living in a small, bare-bones rental unit in Moscow while she finished the last few weeks of her tenure as the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Just a few weeks earlier, Barack Obama had been elected to the presidency of the United States, and the interim period of administration-building between Election Day and Inauguration Day was fully under way.

5,000 miles away from Washington D.C., Gottemoeller’s American cell phone rang. Racing across the apartment to try and answer it, the call ended before she could answer. Due to technological constraints at the time, there was no way to listen back to the voicemail on the Russian network.

Recounting the experience on “The Negotiators” podcast, Gottemoeller explained, “All I was thinking was, ‘Oh man, what is that, was the White House calling, or the Obama campaign? What if I’ve just lost my chance?’”

As soon as she landed back at the Washington Dulles airport, she got her answer. A return call to the number put her in touch with Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton’s office, where an offer to discuss the position of assistant secretary responsible for arms control issues was still on the table.

Rose Gottemoeller [left] stands with Hillary Clinton [right] in the Treaty Room at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with Rose Gottemoeller (left) delivers remarks on the ratification of the new START treaty in the Treaty Room at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on August 11, 2010. U.S. Department of State (Flickr)

“Before I had even collected my luggage, I was on the phone letting them know I would be very glad to come interview with her,” said Gottemoeller.

That initial interview was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Walking into a borrowed New York apartment above Central Park where Clinton had set up her temporary office, Gottemoeller was grilled on nuclear deterrence, U.S. strategic policies, and strategic arms reductions by the future secretary and her two deputies for several hours.

“I thought it was going terribly. It was an exhausting hour and a half,” admits Gottemoeller. “I was convinced I hadn’t done very well.”

But a call the next day proved otherwise. Not only did Secretary Clinton offer her the job of assistant secretary responsible for arms control matters, but also put Gottemoeller’s name forward to the incoming White House to be the chief negotiator for the next strategic arms reduction treaty, what would eventually become the New START Treaty.

The New START Treaty, Then and Now

Formalized in 2010, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, builds on prior agreements put in place between the United State and Russia through the 1970s and 80s to actively reduce and limit the number of strategic nuclear weapons.

As the lead (and first female) negotiator of the treaty for the U.S. side, Gottemoeller knows its strengths and holes better than almost anyone. Building on the progress made by the START I Treaty in 1994, the New START Treaty has successfully reduced the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons Russia to 1,550, a 30 percent reduction from the approximately 6,000 deployed warheads that existed in 2000, and an astonishing 87 percent reduction from the estimated 12,000 deployed nuclear warheads available to the USSR and United States at the end of the Cold War.

Rose Gottemoeller listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill about the New START Treaty.
Rose Gottemoeller led the U.S. side of negotiations with the Russian Federation for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Getty

New START continues to limit the number of strategic nuclear warheads that Russia and the United States are permitted to deploy, and it sets extensive protocols for monitoring and controlling such warheads in both countries. However, it has proven much more difficult to count and verify Russian warheads once they have been removed from their delivery vehicles and sent into storage.

“One of the major developments moving forward needs to be this more direct kind of constraint and oversight of warheads,” says Gottemoeller. “We’ve made some baby steps in that direction, but there’s certainly more we could and should be pushing for.”

Similarly, while New START has clear protocols for managing strategic nuclear warheads, there are gaps in constraining Russia’s stockpile of non-strategic nuclear warheads. Strategic nuclear weapons, as defined by NATO, constitute “weapons to whose use or threat of use only the highest authority of the State can resort, conceptually and structurally.” In the popular imagination, these are the weapons of M.A.D, or “mutually assured destruction,” which rests on the idea that the United States and Russian hold each other at constant risk of nuclear annihilation. A legitimate strategic calculation, this also serves as the basis for the "nuclear Armageddon" trope of Hollywood.

By contrast, non-strategic nuclear weapons, also referred to as “tactical nuclear weapons,” often carry smaller explosive yields, are carried on shorter-range delivery vehicles, and are designed to be used on the battlefield in combination with conventional forces. It is this type of weapon — not strategic missiles — which has caused concerns in the course of Putin’s invasion and ongoing bombardment of Ukraine.

The Invasion of Ukraine and Nuclear Sabre-rattling

Gottemoeller is clear on the repercussions that Vladimir Putin’s veiled threats of a possible tactical nuclear strike against Ukraine are having.

“Putin and his coterie have been extremely irresponsible in their rattling of the nuclear sabre,” she says. “There's absolutely no reason to be threatening nuclear use in Ukraine. This is a war of choice and invasion that Putin decided to undertake, not something he was provoked into by Ukraine, or NATO, or anyone else for that matter.”

Having watched and worked in Putin’s orbit on-and-off for decades, Gottemoeller believes that Putin and those in his inner circle understand that a strategic nuclear exchange of any kind would be “suicide.” But the escalatory risks inherent in a single tactical nuclear strike are still high.

“Threatening nuclear use, even if it’s a single, non-strategic use, is playing with fire,” warns Gottemoeller. “It’s dangerous. There is still far too much potential for escalation in that scenario.”

Intended or not, Putin’s nuclear posturing has also brought the discussion of nuclear weapons and the policies governing their use back to the forefront for people both in and out of government.

“In some ways, that’s not a bad thing,” Gottemoeller acknowledges. “Younger people in particular don’t pay as much attention to nuclear weapons. They’re much more gripped by environmental threats and the threat of climate change.”

The two existential threats are not unrelated, however. Citing an MIT study, Gottemoeller points out that a nuclear exchange would have a profound effect on the climate, potentially even leading to an extinction event for large portions of the global population.

“The notion that we could see nuclear escalation in this war in Ukraine is very, very serious,” says Gottemoeller. “It’s brought these issues into much sharper focus than it has been since the Cold War.”

Threatening nuclear use, even if it’s a single, non-strategic use, is playing with fire.
Rose Gottemoeller
Steven C. Házy Lecturer at CISAC

Developing Nuclear Policies for the Future

Meaningful nuclear policy has often been born out of such moments of sharp focus. The first major treaty, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), first came into force in 1970 following the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The treaty created the first binding commitments toward the goal of disarmament for the nuclear powers at the time — the United States, USSR, and United Kingdom — as well as setting policies of nonproliferation for an additional 46 party states. To date, a total of 191 states have joined and upheld the treaty, including the five current nuclear-weapon states of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.

The work that Rose Gottemoeller is currently undertaking as an advisor to the Strategic Posture Commission and National Nuclear Strategy Administration aims to provide the necessary legwork and critical expertise needed to prepare policymakers for high-level negotiations on future nuclear treaties. New START, currently the last remaining nuclear arms agreement between the United States and Russia, will expire in 2026, and cannot be renewed again without re-ratification by the U.S. Senate. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Kremlin’s actions regarding tactical nuclear weapon use, the importance of providing this type of in-depth policy expertise cannot be understated.

At the Strategic Posture Commision, Gottemoeller is working alongside other experts on a committee chaired by Madelyn Creedon, an expert in national security and defense and former assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs at the Pentagon. Working under bi-partisan leadership from both the House and Senate, this commission is in the process of evaluating the long-term strategic posture of the United States. This includes nuclear weapons, but also conventional weapons, trade agreements, economic progress, arms control diplomacy, and other capabilities of United States national power.

In this realm, Gottemoeller stresses that while nuclear weapons will never cease to be important, new defense strategies need to be focused on emerging technologies rather than the nuclear standoffs of the past. Writing in the August 2022 edition of Foreign Affairs, she stresses that:

“New defense innovations promise not just to transform warfare but also to undermine the logic and utility of nuclear weapons. With advances in sensing technology, states may soon be able to track and target their adversaries’ nuclear missiles, making the weapons easier to eliminate. And with nuclear weapons more vulnerable, innovations such as drone swarms — large numbers of small automated weapons that collectively execute a coordinated attack—will increasingly define war. A fixation on building more nuclear weapons will only distract from this technological revolution, making it harder for the United States to master the advances that will shape the battlefield of the future.”

At the National Nuclear Security Administration, Gottemoeller is similarly applying her expertise to develop better policies to monitor the nuclear warheads already in existence. Launched by Jill Hruby and Frank Rose, the leaders of NNSA, the purpose of this review is to determine how to improve the nonproliferation tools and instruments, one of the Biden administration’s key missions. Working alongside partners at the National Nuclear Laboratories, the NNSA is developing innovative ways to monitor and verify constraints on warheads and their delivery vehicles, including exotic delivery vehicles such as the Russian hypersonic Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile.

“I do really see that there has been a lot of progress in this area and I feel like we are well prepared for a new negotiation,” says Gottemoeller.

The Power of Academia for the Good of Government

Thinking about her own dual career in government and academia, Gottemoeller is quick to point out the immense value that collaboration between the two brings to the policymaking process.

“Over the years, Stanford has been very active in these kinds of discussions and it's been extremely valuable, I think. The academic community plays a super important role for the policy community in Washington,” she says.

In her own recent experience, that has included a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, alongside fellow nuclear expert Scott Sagan, also of FSI’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

Gottemoeller points out that sometimes academics and their institutions can go where governments can’t. These so-called “track-two” settings create opportunities for experts, academics, and professionals from various states to come together for discussion and discourse even if formal “track-one” government negotiations are stalled or stagnant. Even as the war in Ukraine has intensified the divide between the governments in Washington and Moscow, non-governmental experts from the U.S. and Russia continue to meet to ensure lines of communication and understanding regarding key issues remain open.

The academic community can help in dialogues like this. Places like FSI attract very senior figures with immense amounts of policy experience, and we can be a resource for the government back in Washington.
Rose Gottemoeller
Steven C. Házy Lecturer

Gottemoeller believes institutes like FSI and other academic organizations can play a similarly important role in advancing discussion with China, particularly in the realm of nuclear security and weapons modernization. Some of these discussions, such as collaborations between the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Scientists Group on Arms control (of which Gottemoeller is a participating member), are already underway.

“I think dialogues like this are a way in which the academic community can help develop an environment in which the Chinese will then eventually be willing to come to the table in an official government-to-government way,” she explains.

As for her own academic home at the Freeman Spogli Institute, Gottemoeller is grateful for the work the institute and her fellow scholars allow her to do.

“Organizations like FSI and CISAC are a great home for practitioners as well as academic experts. The Freeman Spogli Institute attracts very senior figures with immense amounts of policy experience to come and work here. It’s clearly a resource for the government back in Washington, and I think these groups will continue to play that role very well for a long time.”

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From a missed phone call in Moscow to becoming the lead U.S. negotiator of the New START Treaty, scholars like Rose Gottemoeller demonstrate the importance of collaboration between scholars in academic institutions and policymakers in government.

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Visiting Scholar at FSI and APARC, 2022-23
Payne Distinguished Fellow, 2023 Winter Quarter
shin_jung_seung.jpg

Ambassador Jung-Seung Shin joins the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) and the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) as Visiting Scholar and Payne Distinguished Fellow for the 2023 winter quarter. He previously served as Ambassador for the Republic of Korea to the People's Republic of China from 2008 to 2010, and currently serves as Chair Professor at the East Asia Institute at Dongseo University. While at Stanford, he will be conducting research on the strategic relationships between Korea, China, and the United States.

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Gi-Wook Shin
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This essay originally appeared in Korean on October 27 in Sindonga (New East Asia), Korea’s oldest monthly magazine (established 1931), as part of a monthly column, "Shin’s Reflections on Korea." Translated by Raymond Ha. A PDF version of this essay is also available to download.


Tensions between the United States and China are escalating and spreading into every corner of the complex bilateral relationship, including trade, advanced technologies, finance, ideology, talent, and the military domain. In 2019, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who played a critical role in Nixon’s opening to China, warned that the two countries were at “the foothills of a Cold War.” If left unresolved, he added, there could be dire consequences—worse than those of World War I.

Xi Jinping is driven by his grand vision of a “Chinese dream.” He secured the foundations for an unprecedented third term as president at the 20th party congress last month, as he prepares for a “new great struggle” to achieve China’s dominance on the world stage.[1] Meanwhile, the Biden administration is raising the pressure on Beijing through a series of legislative measures under the banner of “Made in America.” It is bringing economic security to the forefront of its diplomacy, encouraging allies to participate in initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and the so-called Chip 4 alliance. 

Moreover, the United States is openly criticizing China’s human rights record, including the situation in Tibet and Xinjiang. There are growing concerns about the risk of a military clash between the two countries, particularly over Taiwan. In its recently published national security strategy, the Biden administration refers to the coming “decisive decade” in the strategic competition against China.[2] The 2022 national defense strategy also calls China the “most consequential strategic competitor” of the United States.[3]

The deepening rift between the United States and China presents many countries, including South Korea, with a vexing foreign policy challenge. There was a profound conflict between Washington and Moscow during the Cold War, and there were tensions between Japan and the United States in the 1980s. However, Seoul was not pressured to take a side in either era. South Korea signed a mutual defense treaty with Washington shortly after the 1953 armistice. This endured throughout the Cold War and to the present day. Even as it challenged U.S. supremacy, Japan remained a treaty ally of the United States. The current situation is fundamentally different and more complicated. South Korea is increasingly under pressure to side with Washington or Beijing on a wide array of regional and international issues.

For some time, experts and policymakers called for relying on the United States for security while partnering with China for the economy (an-mi-gyeong-joong). This paradigm is now obsolete.
Gi-Wook Shin

How should Korea navigate this turbulent landscape? For some time, experts and policymakers called for relying on the United States for security while partnering with China for the economy (an-mi-gyeong-joong). This paradigm is now obsolete.[4] The Yoon administration has proclaimed a values-based foreign policy to strengthen solidarity between liberal democracies. In his opening statement at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh on November 11, President Yoon reiterated Korea’s support for “strengthening a rule-based international order built on universal values” to foster “freedom, peace, and prosperity” in the Indo-Pacific.[5]

Anti-China sentiment is worsening by the day, even surpassing anti-Japan sentiment. At the same time, there are also growing complaints about the United States, especially after the exclusion of consumer tax credits for Korea’s electric vehicles in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Gi-Wook Shin

Will this approach be sufficient, however? Conflicting trends in Korea’s domestic public opinion complicate the picture. On the one hand, anti-China sentiment is worsening by the day, even surpassing anti-Japan sentiment. At the same time, there are also growing complaints about the United States, especially after the exclusion of consumer tax credits for Korea’s electric vehicles in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Taking these developments into account, this essay seeks to explore the path ahead for Korea by analyzing the nature of U.S.-China tensions and assessing the durability of Pax Americana.

Heading into Thucydides Trap?

U.S.-China relations are widely characterized as “Thucydides Trap.” The Peloponnesian War is regarded as one of the main reasons behind the decline of ancient Greek civilization. Thucydides, an Athenian general and historian, famously wrote that the fundamental cause of this war was due to Spartan fears over the growth of Athenian power. Drawing from Thucydides, international relations theorists have used the concept of a Thucydides Trap to explain tensions between a rising power and a status quo hegemon. Graham Allison, a professor of political science at Harvard, popularized this concept by applying it to Sino-U.S. relations in Destined for War. Beginning from the clash between Portugal and Spain in the late 15th century, Allison notes that there have been 16 instances where an emerging power challenged the hegemonic power. There was a war in all but four cases. When an emerging power is strong enough to challenge the hegemon, this creates structural stresses that frequently lead to a violent conflict.

Based on his analysis of the historical record, Allison warns that the rift between the United States (America First) and China (the Chinese dream) is much wider and deeper than most people perceive it to be. There is now a heightened risk of an armed confrontation between the two countries over Taiwan. Nevertheless, the likelihood of a catastrophic hegemonic war still remains low. Instead, there is likely to be a prolonged conflict and competition between Washington and Beijing centered on advanced technologies.

Made in China 2025 and the Chinese Dream

The U.S.-China trade war began under the Trump administration. Made in China 2025 (MIC 2025), a policy roadmap published by the Chinese government in 2015, drew the attention of the United States and other Western countries. In its opening paragraph, it states that “building an internationally competitive manufacturing industry is the only way China can enhance its comprehensive national strength, ensure national security, and build itself into a world power.”[6]

From the emphasis on “the only way,” it is clear that MIC 2025 is not just an industrial policy. It is an integral element of China’s national security strategy. Under this plan, China seeks to achieve progress in advanced manufacturing technologies such as big data, information technology, aerospace, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. The goal is to become the world’s leading manufacturing power by surpassing the United States.

After MIC 2025 sparked controversy in the West, the Chinese government has refrained from referring to it in public. Nonetheless, it has continued to implement this policy in practice. At the 2021 Lianghui, the concurrent annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political and Consultative Conference, the Chinese government strengthened its resolve to reduce its dependence on U.S.-led global value chains as it sought to develop advanced technologies. Specifically, it emphasized the economic policy of dual circulation, which aims to raise domestic consumption while expanding exports of high value-added goods to foreign markets.

The advanced technologies that China is focusing on have potential military applications. For example, drones, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition technology can be used for reconnaissance satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles. China is pursuing military-civil fusion through the Military-Civil Fusion Development Committee, chaired by President Xi. This indicates that Xi intends to personally oversee China’s ambitious efforts to challenge the United States. At this year’s Lianghui, Xi stressed that China is in a strategically advantageous position in its deepening competition with the United States. Furthermore, he unveiled a plan to achieve his “dream of a strong military” by modernizing China’s armed forces through mechanization and the use of advanced information technology. Despite a slowdown in China’s economy, Xi increased defense spending by 7.1 percent.[7]

Those who analyze Xi Jinping’s character classify him as an ideological purist, a true believer of socialism. He sees a historic opportunity for China to become a global superpower, and believes that it is his calling to realize socialism in the 21st century. Unlike his predecessors, he does not shy away from conflict with the United States. In a September 30, 2022, essay in Qiushi, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leading theoretical journal, Xi stated that “today, we have never been so close to achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and we have never been more confident in our faith and ability to achieve this goal.”[8] Only two weeks before the CCP’s 20th party congress, where he would secure a third term as general secretary, Xi stressed the need for strong leadership to prepare for the intensifying competition with the United States.

Under Xi’s leadership, the CCP is driven by the zeitgeist of the Chinese dream, of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The goal is to make the People’s Republic of China (PRC) the most powerful economic and military power in the world. The emphasis on achieving this goal by 2049 is no coincidence, as it will mark the centennial of the CCP’s victory in the Chinese Civil War, where it defeated the Kuomintang and established the PRC. This timeline also aligns with Xi’s vision of building an advanced socialist country by 2050, which he proclaimed at the 19th National Congress of the CCP. China has a truly ambitious vision, one that leaves the United States no choice but to respond.

From America First to Made in America

When Donald Trump proclaimed “America First” as his slogan in his bid for the White House, his primary target was China. He blamed China for the loss of American jobs, claiming that the United States was suffering greatly from China’s unfair trade practices and interference in markets. This message bolstered his support among white blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt, as they had witnessed a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs. This enabled him to win key swing states in the Midwest, leading to his victory in the 2016 election.

Upon entering office, Trump consistently maintained a hardline policy against China. For example, the “Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020” passed the House 413–3 and cleared the Senate on March 6, 2020. The intent of this law was to create a “whole-of-government approach” to protect America’s telecommunications networks from national security threats posed by Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE, which played a major role in the rollout of 5G networks across the world.[9] His administration increased government oversight of Chinese investment in or acquisition of U.S. tech companies and scrutinized partnerships between American universities and Chinese entities. It tightened visa review procedures for students and visiting scholars from the PRC. It also designated Confucius Institutes in the United States as a “foreign mission” that “[advances] Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.”[10] All of these measures stemmed from a recognition that China was rapidly closing in on the United States. The National Intelligence Council estimates that if current trends continue, China will surpass the United States to become the world’s largest economy between 2030 and 2035.

The American public’s view of China has continued to deteriorate after Trump left office. According to Pew Research, 47% of respondents held a negative view of China in 2018. This surged to 60% in 2019 and 82% in 2022.[11] Despite a transfer of power to the Democrats in 2020, the overall orientation of U.S. policy toward China has remained unchanged. Under the banner of “Made in America,” the Biden administration has carefully crafted a dense web of policies aimed at China.

In the past three months alone, there have been a raft of legislative and executive measures that encompass semiconductors, electric cars and batteries, and biotechnology. This includes the CHIPS and Science Act (August 9), the IRA (August 16), and an Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation (September 12). These steps are intended to check China’s rise and promote the growth of America’s advanced technology and clean energy sectors. The CHIPS and Science Act sets aside $52.7 billion dollars for America’s semiconductor industry.[12] Companies that receive subsidies under this law are barred from expanding operations or otherwise investing in China for the purpose of manufacturing advanced semiconductors.[13] As noted below, certain provisions of the IRA will also have significant ramifications for Korea’s exports of electric cars to the U.S. market.

Even in Silicon Valley, where anti-China sentiment is not as deeply rooted as it is in Washington, there are concerns about the risk of Chinese industrial espionage and intellectual property theft. There is a hesitation among start-ups to accept funding from Chinese investors.
Gi-Wook Shin

As it undertakes a series of legislative steps at home, the Biden administration has pursued multilateralism abroad. This is a key difference from Trump, who preferred bilateral arrangements. The Biden administration is seeking to institutionalize economic and technological alliances through initiatives such as IPEF and the Chip 4 alliance, and it is encouraging Korea and other allies to participate. By stressing intellectual property rights and China’s unfair economic practices, strengthening its own technological capabilities, and reinforcing relevant international norms, Washington is compelling Beijing to operate within a U.S.-led international order. Even in Silicon Valley, where anti-China sentiment is not as deeply rooted as it is in Washington, there are serious concerns about the risk of Chinese industrial espionage and intellectual property theft. There is a palpable hesitation among start-ups to accept funding from Chinese investors. Chinese investment in America increased throughout the 2000s until reaching a peak of $46 billion in 2016. This plummeted by almost 90% to $5 billion in 2018, due in part to political tensions.[14]

Will Pax Americana Endure?

Since the beginning of Pax Americana in 1945, there have been three challenges to America’s status as a global hegemon: by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Japan in the 1980s, and China in the present day. The Soviet Union engaged in a tense military confrontation with the United States for decades, but collapsed in the late 1980s due to the limitations and internal contradictions of its communist system. Japan once threatened to displace America from the apex of the global capitalist order, but lapsed into the “Lost Two Decades” after its economic bubble burst in the early 1990s. What can we say about the future of China, which is engaging in fierce competition against the United States? In short, I believe that China will not surpass the United States in our time.

Those who predict that China will eclipse the United States point to economic trends. China surpassed Japan in 2010 to become the world’s second-largest economy. It also became the world’s largest exporter in 2014, when its gross domestic product exceeded 60% of U.S. GDP. In purchasing power parity terms, China has already leapfrogged the United States. Both present-day statistics and long-term economic trends point in one direction. If the Chinese government makes a concerted effort to invest in key strategic industries, as outlined in MIC 2025, it is certainly feasible for China to surpass the United States to become the world’s leading manufacturing power by 2049.

However, China still lags far behind the United States in many areas, including military power. In absolute terms, for example, its defense spending is only one-third of what the United States spends on its military. There are also a host of political, social, demographic, and economic challenges that hamper China in its campaign to attain global supremacy.[15] Xi’s aggressive anti-corruption campaign is an indication of widespread corruption in Chinese society. There are also serious human rights issues in Tibet and Xinjiang, and the three Ts of Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen cannot be openly discussed. China’s problems extend beyond its borders. With a land border of nearly 14,000 miles with 14 countries, managing territorial disputes is a tall order. There are also tensions with its maritime neighbors in the South China Sea. China’s efforts at public diplomacy have been unsuccessful, as can be seen from the widespread rise of anti-Chinese sentiment in South Korea and other countries.

Amidst these challenges, Xi Jinping secured a third term as president at the 20th party congress on October 16. Since Deng Xiaoping, China has managed leadership transitions in a relatively stable fashion. Under a system of collective leadership, the leader served two five-year terms and appointed his successor in advance. These practices created a certain degree of predictability, stability, and transparency, thereby facilitating  China’s dramatic economic growth and making it powerful enough to compete with the United States. Xi Jinping has sharply broken from this tradition as he seeks to become a 21st-century emperor.

China’s growth was enabled in no small part by talented individuals who studied abroad and then returned home to apply their experiences and insights. As China closes its doors to the outside world, it is also limiting its potential to become a leader in innovation.

Some argue that China is destined to become an imperial power. However, it will be difficult for a fast follower such as China to build an empire. In general, a country must be a first mover or trendsetter to become a hegemonic power. For example, in the corporate sector, Xiaomi may catch up to Samsung, but can it replace Apple? Tech companies such as Alibaba and Baidu have achieved rapid growth thanks to a sizable domestic market, but they have emulated the business models of Amazon and Google. They have not created a new, transformative platform. China’s growth was enabled in no small part by talented individuals who studied abroad and then returned home to apply their experiences and insights. As China closes its doors to the outside world, it is also limiting its potential to become a leader in innovation.

Furthermore, China is failing to serve as a role model for other countries. Except for a few countries in Africa and Asia, the Belt and Road Initiative has yet to yield meaningful results. If anything, anti-China sentiment is deepening across Europe, North America, and Asia. While the Soviet Union had the communist bloc, China lacks a reliable group of allies. China has indeed achieved remarkable growth in the past 30 years, presenting lucrative economic opportunities for individuals and companies in China and abroad. However, talented individuals across the world would arguably prefer to study, work, and live in the United States than in China. Japan’s postwar growth inspired a “Japan boom,” a desire to study and emulate Japan. There is no comparable “China boom” to speak of.

Rich Mandarins

The Palo Alto area, where I have lived and worked for over two decades, has some of the highest housing prices in the United States. A small condo, which is equivalent to an apartment unit in Korea, costs over $1 million. Since I moved to Stanford in 2001, the Bay Area has seen three significant surges in housing prices. The first two waves resulted from a sudden increase in wealth among young tech workers when Google and Facebook went public. On the other hand, the third surge is said to be related to Chinese residents. Locals call these individuals, who purchase high-end housing in cash, “rich mandarins.”

This group includes company founders and investment professionals, as well as entrepreneurs who have listed their companies on New York’s Stock Exchange. They are mostly in their 50s, and they played a critical role in China’s economic growth through their contributions to the IT sector. Although they have amassed an enormous amount of wealth, they are anxious about China’s prospects and the country’s uncertain political future. They are also worried that the government could seize their companies or their individual property. Their families have already moved to America, and they conduct business by shuttling between China and the United States. Some have left China in search of a new life and career.

As long as those who have attained success in China eventually end up in the United States, China cannot become the world’s leading superpower. These individuals are voting with their feet.

As long as those who have attained success in China eventually end up in the United States, China cannot become the world’s leading superpower. These individuals are voting with their feet. Professor Wang Jisi of Peking University has said that “the day the U.S. truly declines is when visa lines in front of its consulates are no longer crowded.”[16] There is pessimism even among China’s economic elite about the country’s future, especially as Xi Jinping further tightens political control under a one-man dictatorship.

For China to surpass the United States and lead the international order, we should see the opposite. Instead of China’s elites rushing toward the United States, there should be an outflow of American elites to China. Only then can we truly speak of a Pax Sinica. In addition, countries across the world should seek to emulate the Chinese model, not the American model. Based on my own knowledge and experience, I am convinced that the likelihood of such trends emerging in the next 20 or 30 years is vanishingly small. It is thus realistic and reasonable to expect Pax Americana to continue into the next generation, with clear implications for Korea’s foreign policy going forward.

An Empire of Liberty

The United States is a hegemonic power that wields unparalleled influence across the world. It exercises its economic and military power to uphold its political, military, and cultural dominance. Institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF are critical elements of Pax Americana, as are programs such as the Peace Corps and Fulbright Scholarships. During the War on Terror, the United States sacrificed many lives and trillions of dollars in prolonged conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the past 100 years, the United States took part in 35 wars, large and small.It will likely be recorded as the country that has participated in the most armed conflicts. Pax Americana appears to be much more robust than Pax Romana or Pax Britannica.

For these reasons, Korea’s progressives criticize American imperialism and advocate for cultivating closer ties with China. We should ask, however, whether a Pax Sinica would be preferable to Pax Americana.

Compared to that of the Soviet Union or present-day China, America’s empire is far more sophisticated. History also tells us so. Although the United States is criticized at times for failing to live up to its proclaimed values, it has shown the strongest commitment to democracy and human rights of any superpower. In an ideal world, the international order would be built solely on sovereign equality. However, any superpower will seek to construct its preferred international order and defend it using various levers of power, including the use of force. To maintain its global hegemony, the United States has effectively deployed a mixture of hard power, soft power, and smart power.

The Yoon administration’s clear articulation of its intent to build a values-based alliance with the United States and other liberal democracies is commendable. There are only a handful of countries other than Korea that have both a defense treaty and an FTA with the U.S.
Gi-Wook Shin

Based on historical experience and a critical analysis of the current state of the world, it would be dangerous to presuppose that Pax Sinica will displace Pax Americana anytime soon. From Korea’s standpoint, it would be unwise to call for strategic ambiguity or for maintaining an equidistant posture between the United States and China. As previously noted, the paradigm of an-mi-gyeong-joong is no longer viable.[17] The Yoon administration’s clear articulation of its intent to build a values-based alliance with the United States and other liberal democracies is commendable. In fact, there are only a handful of countries other than Korea—Israel, Canada, and Australia—that have both a defense treaty and a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States. Korea must foster relationships with these countries, which are a valuable diplomatic asset.

There is deep disappointment and anger in Korea [about the IRA], as this creates a significant disadvantage for Korea’s auto companies. To put it bluntly, Korea’s companies are paying the cost of the Korean government’s failure to address stark economic realities.
Gi-Wook Shin

At the same time, it would be imprudent to focus only on abstract values and neglect vital economic or security interests. Let us consider a recent example. Korea’s leading conglomerates—including Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor Group, and SK—have pledged to invest $26 billion in the United States this year alone. However, the recently passed IRA only provides consumer tax credits to electric vehicles manufactured in North America. There is deep disappointment and anger in Korea, as this creates a significant disadvantage for Korea’s auto companies. To put it bluntly, Korea’s companies are paying the cost of the Korean government’s failure to address stark economic realities.

If the Yoon administration indeed seeks to reduce Korea’s economic dependence on China, it should have a roadmap to strengthen economic ties with the United States while protecting Korea’s own interests. As the United States brings economic security to the forefront, Korea should devise a strategy to avoid repeating the same mistake. Furthermore, even if Korea partners with the United States in advanced technologies that affect national security, it can still maintain economic relations with China in other sectors, including retail, consumer goods, and manufacturing. For values-based diplomacy to be successful, it must be upheld by interest-based diplomacy.

In Search of a Non-Partisan Foreign Policy

In this context, it is worth closely examining two recently published columns regarding the IRA controversy. The first is an op-ed entitled “Yoon Has Been Played by the United States” (September 20) by Park Hyeon, a senior columnist at the progressive Hankyoreh. The second is an op-ed entitled “The IRA Undermines Trust in the Alliance” (September 26) by Lee Mi-Sook, a well-known conservative commentator, in the Munhwa Ilbo.[18] As former Washington correspondents, Park and Lee both have firsthand knowledge of America’s inner workings. Park’s column focuses on criticizing the Yoon administration, while Lee’s piece expresses concern about a weakened U.S.-Korea alliance. Nevertheless, they both show that U.S. policies aimed at China could spark anti-American sentiment in Korea.

Park writes that “the United States, under the banner of economic security, is tying its allies and friendly countries into a U.S.-led economic bloc, weakening China—the hegemonic challenger—while seeking a revival of its domestic manufacturing industry.” He begins from the premise that “this kind of protectionism is harmful for open, export-driven economies such as Korea.” With full knowledge of this state of affairs, Hyundai Motor Group pledged to invest more than $10 billion in the United States, expecting its cars to be granted subsidies in return. Instead, it was given the cold shoulder. Park adds that “the Presidential Office fell into disarray” and missed a golden opportunity to raise these concerns with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who visited Korea shortly after the final text of the IRA was released on July 27. This failure is characteristic of Yoon’s foreign policy, Park concludes.

In her column, Lee writes that “the IRA could once again imperil the U.S.-Korea alliance, which faced a serious crisis under the Trump administration.” She goes on to say that “the exclusion of Korean electric vehicles from subsidies, despite the ‘national treatment’ clause in the Korea-U.S. FTA, is raising suspicions about an underlying lack of concern for Korea in the United States.” Moreover, she adds that “there are signs this dispute over subsidies could turn into something far worse—a question of hurt national pride.” She warns that “if America fails to show flexibility and sticks to the original provision of the IRA, this will not only erode Koreans’ trust in the alliance, but also provide political fodder for progressives (former pro-democracy activists) to stoke anti-Americanism.” In closing, Lee calls upon the United States “to consider Korea’s view of the situation and act in a way that honors the spirit of the U.S.-Korea alliance.”

It is commendable for the Yoon administration to focus on strengthening the U.S.-Korea alliance and building solidarity around shared values, but it must also call on Washington to reciprocate Seoul’s efforts.
Gi-Wook Shin

As these op-eds indicate, both progressives and conservatives are openly expressing their concern about the United States’ failure to show adequate concern for Korea. It is commendable for the Yoon administration to focus on strengthening the U.S.-Korea alliance and building solidarity around shared values, but it must also call on Washington to reciprocate Seoul’s efforts. For instance, as Lee Mi-Sook notes in her column, Korea could suggest an amendment to the IRA to apply subsidies to electric vehicles produced in countries that have an FTA with the United States. Policy missteps could lead to a resurgence of anti-American sentiment in Korea, putting the Yoon administration in a political quagmire. The controversy over the IRA may be the first of many such issues, especially if the Biden administration intensifies its “Made in America” policy.

To overcome the unforgiving realities of Korea’s foreign policy environment, the Yoon administration must be able to rely on a robust domestic consensus and strong popular support. Foreign policy requires a high level of expertise. Some issues have to be resolved behind the scenes, with experts and government officials playing a leading role. That said, foreign policy should not be left entirely in the hands of policy elites, and it should not be a partisan political football. On several occasions, minor incidents during President Yoon’s recent overseas visits received undue attention in the press and became the subject of ridicule back home. This is entirely unnecessary. For example, take the controversy surrounding a hot mic moment during a visit to New York in September.[19] Looking from the outside in, it is difficult to understand why the whole country became engulfed in a bitter partisan debate about a trivial gaffe. Little attention was paid to the substance of the visit.

It is vital to establish a norm whereby important foreign policy issues are addressed in a non-ideological, non-partisan manner that garners broad public support. To do so, the Korean government must increase transparency in its decision-making process when it comes to major issues. It must also endeavor to gather and incorporate public opinion in foreign policy, so that the public does not feel unduly detached from the policymaking process. Governments across the world now recognize domestic public opinion as a critical element of their foreign policy strategy. Diplomacy cannot be effective without public support. Korea’s diplomats, who are in the trenches of international diplomacy, need all the support they can get.

There is no telling when Korea might be battered by a perfect storm in its foreign policy, given the current state of U.S.-China relations. As Hal Brands and Michael Beckley warn in Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China, the race between the United States and China may end up being a sprint, not a marathon. This decade may be the most dangerous period in U.S.-China relations. In the early 20th century, Korea lost its sovereignty after failing to establish a coherent foreign policy, with different factions supporting China, Russia, and Japan. Upon liberation in 1945, extreme ideological confrontation split the peninsula in two. Korea cannot afford to make the same mistake again.

 

[1] Gi-Wook Shin and Seong-Hyon Lee, “Op-Ed: In China, Xi Jinping Is Getting an Unprecedented Third Term. What Should the World Expect?”, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-10-20/china-government-president-xi-jinping.
 

[3] U.S. Department of Defense, 2022 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, October 2022, https://media.defense.gov/2022/Oct/27/2003103845/-1/-1/1/2022-NATIONAL-DEFENSE-STRATEGY-NPR-MDR.PDF.
 

[4] A recent survey of the South Korean public indicates that “only 43 percent of. . . respondents agree with this framework to some degree.” See Gi-Wook Shin, Haley M. Gordon, and Hannah June Kim, “South Korea Votes, Beijing Watches,” American Purpose, March 2, 2022, https://www.americanpurpose.com/articles/south-korea-votes-beijing-watches/. See also Gi-Wook Shin, “In the Wake of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Korea Should Join Its Peers in Defending the Liberal International Order,” Shorenstein APARC, June 1, 2022, https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/wake-russia%E2%80%99s-invasion-ukraine-korea-should-join-its-peers-defending-liberal-international.
 

[5] ROK Presidential Office, “President Yoon’s Opening Remarks at the ASEAN Summit” [in Korean], November 11, 2022, https://www.korea.kr/news/policyNewsView.do?newsId=148908196.
 

[6] PRC State Council, “Notice of the State Council on the Publication of ‘Made in China 2025’,” May 8, 2015. Translation provided by Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Georgetown University, https://cset.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/t0432_made_in_china_2025_EN.pdf
 

[7] “China to Raise Defense Spending by 7.1% to $229 Billion,” AP News, March 5, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/business-china-congress-d03b477b646b055241e7712f86bacee6.
 

[8] Xi Jinping, “The Historic Mission of the Chinese Communist Party in this New Era,” Qiushi, September 30, 2022, http://www.qstheory.cn/dukan/qs/2022-09/30/c_1129040825.htm. The original text reads “今天,我们比历史上任何时期都更接近、更有信心和能力实现中华民族伟大复兴的目标”.
 

[9] For the full text, see Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020, Pub. L. No. 116–129, 134 Stat. 223 (2020), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/PLAW-116publ129/pdf/PLAW-116publ129.pdf.
 

[10] U.S. Department of State, “Designation of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a Foreign Mission of the PRC,” August 13, 2020, https://2017-2021.state.gov/designation-of-the-confucius-institute-u-s-center-as-a-foreign-mission-of-the-prc/index.html.
 

[11] Christine Huang, Laura Silver, and Laura Clancy, “China’s Partnership With Russia Seen as Serious Problem for the U.S.,” Pew Research Center, April 28, 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2022/04/28/chinas-partnership-with-russia-seen-as-serious-problem-for-the-us/.
 

[12] The White House, “Fact Sheet: CHIPS and Science Act Will Lower Costs, Create Jobs, Strengthen Supply Chains, and Counter China,” August 9, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/08/09/fact-sheet-chips-and-science-act-will-lower-costs-create-jobs-strengthen-supply-chains-and-counter-china/.
 

[13] Kinling Lo, “US Chips Act Bars American Companies in China from Building ‘Advanced Tech’ Factories for 10 years,” South China Morning Post, September 7, 2022, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3191596/us-chips-act-bars-american-companies-china-building-advanced-tech.
 

[14] Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, “Chinese Investment into the US and EU Has Plummeted since 2016,” Peterson Institute for International Economics, September 16, 2019. https://www.piie.com/research/piie-charts/chinese-investment-us-and-eu-has-plummeted-2016.
 

[15] The dynamism of its universities also provides the United States with a significant advantage. See Gi-Wook Shin, “Why Korea’s Future Depends on Its Universities,” Shorenstein APARC, October 13, 2022, https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/why-korea%E2%80%99s-future-depends-its-universities.
 

[16] Tuvia Gering, “Discourse Power,” May 30, 2022, https://discoursepower.substack.com/p/discourse-power-may-30-2022.
 

[17] Shin, “In the Wake of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine.”
 

[19] President Yoon, after a meeting with President Biden, was caught on a hot mic using an expletive in reference to members of the ROK National Assembly.

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As U.S.-China tensions escalate, Korea must chart a new path.

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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.”

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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.

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We are pleased to share that Professor of Sociology Kiyoteru Tsutsui, the Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Professor and Senior Fellow in Japanese Studies at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC), is the recipient of the 2022 Ishibashi Tanzan Award for his book Human Rights and the State: The Power of Ideas and the Realities of International Politics (Iwanami Shinsho, 2022).

Established in 1980 and presented by the Ishibashi Tanzan Memorial Foundation, the annual award recognizes excellence in the fields of politics, economics, international relations, society, and culture. It honors individuals who have contributed to advancing the legacy of former Japanese Prime Minister Ishibashi Tanzan and his ideas on liberalism, democracy, and international peace. Tsutsui’s book explores the paradox underlying the global expansion of human rights, examines Japan’s engagement with human rights ideas and instruments, and assesses their impacts on domestic politics around the world.

“I’m deeply honored to receive this prestigious award, especially in this historical moment in which commitment to the international liberal order is ever more critical,” says Tsutsui, who is also director of APARC’s Japan Program, APARC’s deputy director, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and the co-director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice. “Among all the Japanese Prime Ministers in history, no one demonstrated a more unwavering commitment to liberalism than Ishibashi Tanzan, and I’m especially pleased that my book on global human rights has received this recognition bearing his name. There’s also a personal connection for me, as my father is the author of the first social science book on Ishibashi Tanzan and I helped with his research as a middle school student, making copies of relevant newspapers.”


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In an APARC interview about the book, Tsutsui explains the tension inherent in the diffusion of global human rights, which is rooted in states’ embracing these universal rights although they are grounded in principles that constrain their sovereignty. “The end of the Cold War enabled the United Nations to engage in human rights activities free from Cold War constraints, and now those states that committed to human rights without thinking about the consequences have to face a world in which their violations can become a real liability for them,” he notes.

Tsutsui believes that Japan has an opportunity to become a global leader in human rights. “The more inwardly oriented United States is creating a vacuum in promotion and protection of liberal values, especially with China’s influence surging, and Japan should carry the torch taking the mantle of human rights, democracy, and rule of law,” he argues.

Tsutsui’s research interests lie in political and comparative sociology, social movements, globalization, human rights, and Japanese society. His current projects examine issues including changing conceptions of nationhood and minority rights in national constitutions and in practice, populism and the future of democracy, the global expansion of corporate social responsibility, and Japan’s public diplomacy and perceptions of Japan in the world.

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The Ishibashi Tanzan Memorial Foundation recognizes Tsutsui, the Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Professor and Senior Fellow in Japanese Studies at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, for his book 'Human Rights and the State.'

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Against the backdrop of Ukraine's counteroffensive and the Kremlin's efforts to illegally annex additional territory, a delegation of members from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly arrived at Stanford to meet with experts and weigh considerations about the ongoing conflict. First on their circuit was a panel hosted by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) chaired by FSI Director Michael McFaul, with Marshall Burke, Francis Fukuyama, Anna Grzymala-Busse, Scott Sagan, and Kathryn Stoner participating.

The delegates represented thirteen of NATO's thirty member nations, including Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Top of mind were questions about the possibility of nuclear escalation from the Kremlin, and appropriate repsonses from the alliance, as well as questions about the longevity of Putin's regime, the nature of international authoritarian alliances, and the future of Ukraine as a European nation.

Drawing from their expertise on state-building, democracy, security issues, nuclear enterprise, and political transitions, the FSI scholars offered a broad analysis of the many factors currently playing out on the geopolitical stage. Abbreviated versions of their responses are given below.

Kathryn Stoner, Francis Fukuyama, Marshall Burke, Scott Sagan, Anna Grzymala-Busse, and Michael McFaul present at a panel given to memebers of the NATO Parlimentary Assembly.
Kathryn Stoner, Francis Fukuyama, Marshall Burke, Scott Sagan, Anna Grzymala-Busse, and Michael McFaul present at a panel given to memebers of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on September 26, 2022. Melissa Morgan

The following commentary has been edited for clarity and length, and does not represent the full extent of the panel’s discussion.
 


Rethinking Assumptions about Russia and Putin

Kathryn Stoner

Right now, Putin is the most vulnerable he's ever been in 22 years in power. But I don’t believe he's under so much pressure at this point that he is about to leave office anytime soon. Autocracies do not usually die by popular mobilization, unfortunately. More often they end through an elite coup or turnover. And since the end of WWII, the research has shown that about 75% of the time autocracies are typically replaced by another autocracy, or the perpetuation of the same autocracy, just with a different leader. So, if Putin were replaced, you might get a milder form of autocracy in Russia, but I don't think you are suddenly going to create a liberal democracy.

This means that we in the West, and particularly in the U.S., need to think very hard about our strategies and how we are going to manage our relationships with Putin and his allies. This time last year, the U.S. broadcast that we basically wanted Russia to calm down so we could pivot to China. That’s an invitation to not calm down, and I think it was a mistake to transmit that as policy.

We need to pay attention to what Russia has been doing. They are the second biggest purveyor of weapons globally after the United States. They will sell to anyone. They’ve been forgiving loans throughout Sub Saharan Africa from the Soviet period and using that as a way of bargaining for access to natural resources. They’re marketing oil, selling infrastructure, and building railroads. Wherever there is a vacuum, someone will fill it, and that includes Russia every bit as much as China. We need to realize that we are in competition with both Russia and China, and develop our policies and outreach accordingly.

KStoner

Kathryn Stoner

Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
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Confronting Autocracy at Home and Abroad

Anna Grzymala-Busse

Why is Putin in Ukraine? Because the fact that there is a democratic country right next door to Russia is an affront to him. Putin doesn’t care that much about NATO. The fact that nothing happened when Sweden joined is some evidence of this. That’s something to keep in mind as people are debating NATO and Ukraine and Ukraine’s possible future as a member.

NATO membership and EU membership are both wonderful things. But more fundamental that that, this war has to be won first. That’s why I think it’s necessary in the next six months to speed up the support for Ukraine by ensuring there’s a steady stream of armaments, training personnel, and providing other military support.

There’s been incredible unity on Ukraine over the last seven months across the EU, NATO, and amongst our allies. But our recent history with President Trump reminds us how fragile these international commitments can be. In foreign policy, it used to be understood that America stands for liberal democracy. But we had a president of the United States who was more than happy to sidle up to some of the worst autocrats in the world. That’s why we can’t afford to leave rising populism around the world unaddressed and fail to engage with voters. When we do that, we allow far right parties to grab those votes and go unopposed. Whatever happens domestically impacts what happens internationally.

Anna Grzymała-Busse

Anna Grzymala-Busse

Director of The Europe Center
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The Consequences of Nuclear Sabre-Rattling

Scott Sagan

We have to very clear-eyed when we’re talking about the threat, however improbable, of the use of a nuclear weapon. When it comes to the deployment of a tactical nuclear weapon, its kinetic effects depend on both the size of the weapon, the yield, and the target. Tactical weapons range in yield from very low — 5-10% of what was in the Hiroshima bomb — to as large as what was used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If that kind of weapon was used on an urban target, it would produce widescale effects. In a battlefield or rural area, it would have a relatively small impact.

But in the bigger picture, what any use of a weapon like this does is break a 70+ year tradition of non-use. Those seventy years have been dicey and fragile, but they have held so far. A tradition that is broken creates a precedent, and once there’s a precedent, it makes it much easier for someone to transgress the tradition again. So even if a decision was made to use a tactical weapon with little kinetic importance for strategic effect, I think we still need to be worried about it.

Personalistic dictators surround themselves with yes men. They make lonely decisions by themselves, often filled with vengeance and delusion because no one can tell them otherwise. They don't have the checks and balances. But I want to make one point about a potential coup or overthrow. Putin has done a lot to protect himself against that. But improbable events happen all the time, especially when leaders make really, really bad decisions. That’s not something we should be calling for as official U.S. policy, but it should be our hope.

Headshot of Scott Sagan

Scott Sagan

FSI Senior Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation
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Cycles of Conflict, Climate Change, and Food Insecurity

Marshall Burke

The estimates right now project that there are 350 million people around the world facing acute food insecurity. That means 350 million people who literally don’t have enough to eat. That’s roughly double what it was pre-COVID. The factors driving that are things like supply chain disruptions from the pandemic and climate shocks, but also because of ongoing conflict happening around the world, Ukraine included.

There was an early concern that the war in Ukraine would be a huge threat to global food security. That largely has not been the case so far, at least directly. Opening the grain corridors through the Black Sea has been crucial to this, and it’s critical that we keep those open and keep the wheat flowing out. Research shows that unrest increases when food prices spike, so it’s important for security everywhere to keep wheat prices down.

What I’m worried about now is natural gas prices. With high global natural gas prices, that means making fertilizer is also very expensive and prices have increased up to 300% relative to a few years ago. If they stay that high, this is going to be a long-term problem we will have to find a way of reckoning with on top of the other effects from climate change already impacting global crop production and the global economy.

Marshall Burke

Marshall Burke

Deputy Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment
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Ukraine After the War

Francis Fukuyama

I've been more optimistic about the prospects for Ukraine taking back territory for more of this war, just because of the vast difference in motivation between the two sides and the supply of modern weapons that Ukraine has been getting. But I don’t know what the conditions on the ground will look like when the decision to negotiate comes. Will Russia still be sitting on occupied territory? Are they kicked out entirely? Or are the frontlines close to where they are now?

As I’ve observed, Ukraine's demands have shifted depending on how they perceive the war going on. There was a point earlier this summer where they hinted that a return to the February 23 borderlines would be acceptable. But now with their recent successes, they're saying they want everything back to the 2014 lines. What actually happens will depend on what the military situation looks like next spring, by my guess.

However the war does end, I think Ukraine actually has a big opportunity ahead of them. Putin has unwittingly become the father of a new Ukrainian nation. The stresses of the war have created a very strong sense of national identity in Ukraine that didn’t exist previously. It’s accurate that Ukraine had significant problems with corruption and defective institutions before, but I think there’s going to be a great push to rout that out. Even things like the Azov steel factory being bombed out of existence is probably a good thing in the long run, because Ukraine was far too dependent on 20th-century coal, steel, and heavy industry. Now they have an opportunity to make a break from all of that.

There are going to be challenges, obviously. We’ll have to watch very carefully what Zelenskyy chooses to do with the commanding position he has at the moment, and whether the government will be able to release power back to the people and restore its institutions. But Europe and the West and our allies are going to have a really big role in the reconstruction of Ukraine, and that should be regarded by everyone as a tremendous opportunity.

frank_fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama

Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI
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Victory in Ukraine, Victory for Democracy

Michael McFaul

Nobody likes a loser, and right now, Putin is losing strategically, tactically, and morally. Now, he doesn’t really care about what Biden or NATO or the West think about him. But he does care about what the autocrats think about him, especially Xi Jinping. And with reports coming out of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that Xi has “concerns” about what’s happening in Ukraine, Putin is feeling that pressure. I think that's why he has decided he needs to double down, not to negotiate, but to try and “win” in some way as defined by him.

In my view, that’s what’s behind the seizure of these four regions. If he feels like he can unequivocally claim them as part of Russia, then maybe he will sue for peace. And that’s exactly what President Zelenskyy fears. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened in 2014. Putin took Crimea, then turned around to the countries of the world and said, “Aren’t we all tired of war? Can’t we just have peace? I’m ready to end the war, as long as you recognize the new borders.” And, let’s be honest, we did.

We keep hearing politicians say we should put pressure for peace negotiations. I challenge any of them to explain their strategy for getting Putin to talk about peace. There is no doubt in my mind that President Zelenskyy would sit down tomorrow to negotiate if there was a real prospect for peace negotiations. But there's also no doubt in my mind right now that Putin has zero interest in peace talks.

Like Dr. Fukuyama, I don’t know how this war will end. But there's nobody inside or outside of Russia that thinks it’s going well. I personally know a lot of people that believe in democracy in Russia. They believe in democracy just as much as you or I. I’ve no doubt of their convictions. But they’re in jail, or in exile today.

If we want to help Russia in the post-Putin world, we have to think about democracy. There’s not a lot we can do to directly help democracy in Russia right now. But we should be doing everything to help democracy in Ukraine.  It didn’t happen in 1991. It didn’t happen in 2004. It didn’t happen in 2014. They had those breakthroughs and those revolutionary moments, but we as the democratic world collectively didn’t get it right. This is our moment to get it right, both as a way of helping Ukraine secure its future, and to give inspiration to “small-d” democrats fighting for rights across the world.

Michael McFaul, FSI Director

Michael McFaul

Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Full Profile

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Q&As

Pushing Back on Putin: The Fight for Democracy Within Russia

Lyubov Sobol, an activist and current visiting scholar at CDDRL, explains the roots of Russia's pro-democracy movement and the importance of its success to Russia, Ukraine, and the future stability of the global democratic community.
Pushing Back on Putin: The Fight for Democracy Within Russia
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FSI Director Michael McFaul, Kathryn Stoner, Francis Fukuyama, Scott Sagan, Anna Grzymala-Busse, and Marshall Burke answered questions from the parliamentarians on the conflict and its implications for the future of Ukraine, Russia, and the global community.

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Visually banner card with the event title "Japan’s "Free and Open Indo-Pacific” Strategy: More Eloquent Japan and Domestic Political Institutions", and featuring a circle photo portrait of speaker Professor Harukata Takenaka

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has advocated “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” Vision in 2016, various scholars have analyzed policy formulation process of FOIP. Most of them refer to the rise of China as an influential power in the Indo-Pacific region with its own initiative, namely, the Belt and Road Initiative as a major factor which prompted the Second Abe Administration to launch FOIP.

It is the contention of this presentation that the current configuration of the Japanese political institutions has made it possible for the Second Abe administration to launch and pursue such a comprehensive strategy while an international factor is important. It demonstrates that a series of political reforms since 1990s have strengthened the power of the prime minister as an institution to initiate key cabinet policies and coordinate policy formulation among different ministries. The strong institutional foundation of the Japanese prime ministerial power has made it possible for the Abe administration to effectively pursue such a broad vision, engaging various ministries and organizations.

The existing research on Japan's diplomacy often evaluates Japan as a passive state. It considers that in the past Japan only responded to foreign pressure while it did not proactively push forward its own policies. The presentation suggests that Japan has changed and become more eloquent as a result of changes in domestic political institutions.

Speaker

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Square photo portrait of Harukata Takenaka
Harukata Takenaka is a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo. He holds a PhD from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Tokyo.

His key research areas are the role the prime minister in Japanese politics, changes in Japanese external policy, and democratization in Pre-war Japan.

Prof. Takenaka’s recent publications include: “Kyokoku Chugoku” to Taijisuru Indo-Taiheiyo Shokoku [Indo-Pacific Nations facing China aspiring to be a “Great Country”](edited) (Tokyo: Chikura Shobo, 2022), “Evolution of Japanese security policy and the House of Councilors,” Japanese Journal of Political Science, 22:2, (June 2021), 96-115, Korona Kiki no Seiji [Politics of Covid 19 Crisis](Tokyo: Chuo Koron Shinsha, 2020), “Expansion of the Japanese prime minister’s power in the Japanese parliamentary system: Transformation of Japanese politics and the institutional reforms,”Asian Survey,59:5:844-869 (September 2019); Futatsu no Seiken Kotai [Two Changes of Government] (edited) (Tokyo: Keiso Shobo, 2017); Failed Democratization in Prewar Japan (Stanford University Press 2014),

Harukata Takenaka Professor of Political Science National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Japan
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Visiting Student Researcher, The Europe Center, 2022
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Fanny Schardey, M.A., is a PhD student in international relations and foreign policy at Heidelberg University, Germany. In 2021, she was a visiting doctoral student at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Previously, she studied Political Science at Sciences Po Paris, Heidelberg, Würzburg and Geneva University.

Fanny’s doctoral thesis contributes to the research strand on comparative liberal alliance politics using East Central Europe as a case study. The first part of her thesis deals with the development of dominant societal preference configurations. The unintended consequences of Europeanization processes on societal values take a central position in her explanatory approach.
The second part of her thesis focuses on the functionality of representation mechanisms. The question of representation concerns less the political regimes per se but rather dynamic processes of preference transmission in these countries.

Fanny explores these assumptions on dominant preference configurations, their representation as well as their impact on alliance behavior in East Central Europe by using quantitative and qualitative methods of causal inference.

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Ali Wyne Event Card

Following the launch of his new book, America's Great-Power Opportunity: Revitalizing U.S. Foreign Policy to Meet the Challenges of Strategic Competition, Wyne joins the China Program’s Author Series to discuss how the United States must avoid complacency and consternation in appraising China and Russia. Rather than attempting the unfeasible—countering their current and future initiatives and forestalling subsequent provocations—Wyne argues that Washington should formulate a more practical, creative, and sustainable foreign policy that can advance U.S. national interests regardless of what steps Beijing and Moscow take, and that recent competitive missteps give the U.S. space to undertake this task.

For more information about America's Great-Power Opportunity or to purchase a copy, please click here.

Speaker

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Ali Wyne Headshot
Ali Wyne is a Senior Analyst at the Eurasia Group’s Global Macro Geopolitics practice and Author of the brand-new book America’s Great Power Opportunity: Revitalizing U.S. Foreign Policy to Meet the Challenges of Strategic Competition.

Jean C. Oi

Virtual event via Zoom

Ali Wyne
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