Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Asia Has Three Possible Futures

| Sep. 05, 2019

The competition between the United States and China will decide the continent's fate—and one of them has a head start.

I spent the last week of August in South Korea, attending a conference on security studies sponsored by the Korea National Defense University and giving lectures at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies and at Sungkyunkwan University. As you might expect, the trip got me thinking about the evolving strategic environment in Asia. There's a lot at play these days: an escalating trade war between the United States and China, North Korea's growing nuclear arsenal and improved missile capabilities, deteriorating relations between South Korea and Japan, and increased cooperation between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Toss in the Afghanistan peace talks and India's heavy-handed actions in Kashmir, and you have a pretty full diplomatic agenda.

At times like this, it's useful to step back from today's headlines and look at the big picture. And for a realist like me, the most important factors to consider are, first, the balance of power between the United States and China and, second, the likely response of other Asian countries to any significant shifts in that balance. These elements aren't the only things that matter, of course, but the relative capabilities of the world's two most powerful nations—one of which happens to be located in Asia—are bound to cast a long shadow over all the other countries in the region....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“Asia Has Three Possible Futures.” Foreign Policy, September 5, 2019.

The Author

Stephen Walt