Overview: The Asia-Pacific Region

Stretching from the Pacific coast of the United States to the Indian Ocean, the Asia-Pacific is one of the most culturally, economically, and politically diverse regions of the world. It is home to more than half of the world’s population, two-thirds of the world’s economy, and seven of the largest military forces on the planet. The region includes large economies like India, Japan, and China, but is also home to numerous developing economies and small island nations.

The United States is a Pacific power and has had significant security and economic interests in the region for more than a century. From treaty alliances with Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the Philippines to three million American jobs and $1 trillion in foreign direct investment, successive Republican and Democratic administrations have recognized the importance of engagement in Asia. Today, the U.S. faces critical challenges in the region—from managing competition with China to revitalizing relations with allies and partners in Southeast Asia; from reimagining economic statecraft to addressing the threats posed by emerging technologies.

In conjunction with Belfer Center's Future of Diplomacy Project and Defense Project, the Asia-Pacific Initiative seeks to analyze issues that have increasingly defined the region as the emerging economic, technological, and geopolitical center of gravity in the 21st century, and to develop constructive approaches to promote peace and prosperity in the region. Leveraging Harvard’s resources and expertise in regional studies, history, economics, and diplomacy, the project will research trend lines and seek to identify solutions to the most pressing challenges.

In addition to producing timely, rigorous, and innovative research, the Initiative also aims to equip a rising generation of scholars and practitioners with the tools and expertise necessary to tackle central challenges in the region, from security and defense to trade and economics to science and technology. By harnessing Harvard’s convening power, the project brings distinguished academics and seasoned policymakers into dialogue through a series of working groups, seminars, and lectures.

Research Priorities

1. Alliances and Partnerships: Collective Security Architecture

The project seeks to investigate regional security architecture in the Indo-Pacific, including U.S. treaty alliances with Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand, as well as emerging partners such as India, Singapore, and Vietnam. It will also examine multilateral structures such as the Quad (India, Japan, Australia, U.S.) and AUKUS.

2. Technology and Economic Statecraft

The project will study key challenges posed by technology and trade, including how regional actors govern digital economies and how nations can advance resilient and secure supply chains in strategic industries such as biotechnology and semiconductors.

3. The China Challenge

The project aims to focus on constructive solutions for managing the bilateral relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China—including specifically in the military relationship and across the Taiwan Strait.

"The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy" -- A Conversation with Daniel J. Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

October 19, 2022

Director's Seminar with John C. Demers, former Assistant Attorney General for National Security (2018-2021) 

October 12, 2022





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