Overview of the International Forum on “Asia-Pacific Security: Risk and Control”


On January 18-20, 2019, the National Institute for Global Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Center for International Strategy and Security of Tsinghua University (CISS) jointly held the international forum themed on “Asia-Pacific Security: Risk and Control” in Beijing, bringing together more than 40 renowned scholars at home and abroad. The forum focuses on three topics: Asia-Pacific security situation and hot-button issues, international relations theories and historical implications, and paths and suggestions for security risk control. The major arguments laid out at the forum are as follows:

Geopolitical risks in the Asia-Pacific region are mounting. In recent years, continued improvements have been made in China’s relations with Japan and Southeast Asian countries, the situation of the East and South China seas is generally stable and improving, and traditional disputes over sovereignty and maritime rights have been put under proper control. However, the geostrategic competition initiated by the US has been increasingly fierce. The US has paid more attention to the “competitive challenge” and “security threat” posed by countries like China, Russia and even North Korea. The US launched the Indo-Pacific Strategy, as an attempt to contain a China with growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region, and kept strengthening its relations with countries such as India, Japan, Australia and Vietnam, which will increase the risks in the geopolitical landscape of the region.

The China-US security relations are overall controllable. Scholars at the forum maintained that where China-US relations are going will largely determine the future of security situations in the Asia-Pacific region, and that currently there are both structural conflicts and cooperation between the two countries. The division between China and the US shows signs of expansion from economy and trade to the other security-related areas. Yet at the same time, the two powers still need to cooperate on many fields, including economy, climate change, governance of non-traditional transnational issues and major hot-spot issues like North Korea and nuclear security. China and the US will not end up with a cold war like that between the US and the Soviet Union, but the bilateral relations have reached a critical crossroad. The protraction of China-US strategic competition will constitute a confrontational security framework in the Asia-Pacific region, thus forcing other countries to take sides. If the China-US relations keep deteriorating, there is a possibility that they fall into the Thucydides trap.

Uncertainties still persist in the South China Sea issue, the Taiwan Strait question and the North Korean nuclear issue. The lack of mutual trust between major countries is more likely to cause strategic miscalculation and damage peaceful cooperation in the region. If the “trust deficit” continues, it will damage interests of all parties and hinder their ability to achieve their goals. The South China Sea issue is particularly pressing. The year 2018 saw frequent occurrence of China-US confrontations. Any conflict and collision is likely to trigger a sharp deterioration of China-US relations. In terms of the Taiwan Strait question, the Democratic Progressive Party may try to promote Taiwan independence during its remaining time in office and thus touch the red line in the relations with the mainland. The US is playing the Taiwan card for explicit purposes, so we cannot rule out the possibility that the relations across the Taiwan Strait may be further complicated. With regard to the North Korean nuclear issue, most scholars hold that the overall situation is sound, but there are still considerable uncertainties in North Korea. The biggest variable is the US, that is, whether Washington will be determined to address security concerns about North Korea.

Greater attention has been paid to the development of armed forces and military power of China. In this respect, the other countries often stretch their imagination to infer China’s intentions, as they hold that the key thing is that China itself cannot clarify its intentions or its clarification is not specific enough. For example, China has clearly explained earlier that the base in Djibouti aims to provide logistical supply for its escort taskforces in the Gulf of Aden, which represents outcomes of the friendly cooperation between China and Djibouti, and that port cooperation along the BRI route is usually a commercial act. That being said, there are still persisting and mounting improper speculations among the other countries.

The artificial intelligence (AI) technology is increasing the possibility of global risks and major-country competition. New technologies may become a main battleground in the future China-US competition, and the AI technology and data resources are two key issues which urgently need to be controlled worldwide. Therefore, concerted efforts are called for to prevent any warfare caused by modern technologies like AI and automatic weapons in the 21st century. At present, human beings are simply concerned about and keen on developing new technologies but hardly reflect and research on relevant ethics, thus failing to establish a set of common rules for the time being. As technologically superior countries have more divisions and confrontations with each other, risks in this regard will rise.

Appendix: List of attendees

Chinese scholars:

Chen Qi

Professor of Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University

Chen Xiaogong

Former Deputy Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee, former Deputy Commander of Chinese Air Force

Da Wei

Assistant President of the University of International Relations

Fan Jishe

Dean of the Department of Strategic Studies under the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Feng Yujun

Vice Dean of the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University

Fu Ying

Director of the Center for International Strategy and Security, Tsinghua University

Hu Bo

Director General of the Center for Maritime Strategy Studies, Peking University

Li Bin

Professor of Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University

Su Ge

Co-chair of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, Chair of the China National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation and former President of the China Institute of International Studies

Wang Fan

Vice President of the Chine Foreign Affairs University

Wang Jisi

President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies, Peking University

Wang Linggui

Executive Vice Chairman of Board of Directors, Secretary General and Research Fellow of the National Institute for Global Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Wang Shuai

Research Fellow of the National Institute for Global Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Wu Dahui

Professor of Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University

Xu Hui

Commandant of the International College of Defense Studies, National Defense University of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army

Yao Yunzhu

Senior Advisor to the China Association of Military Science and retired Major General of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army

Yuan Peng

President of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

Zhang Baijia

Former Deputy Director of the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee

Zhao Minghao

Research Fellow of the China Center for Contemporary World Studies, International Department of the CPC Central Committee

Zhou Bo

Director General of the Center for Security Cooperation at the Office for International Military Cooperation in the Chinese Ministry of National Defense

Zhou Qiangwu

Director General of the International Economics and Finance Institute of the Ministry of Finance

Zhu Feng

Executive Director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing University

Foreign scholars:

Bruno Maçães

Former Europe Minister of Portugal and Senior Advisor to UK-based business consultancy Flint Global

Clifford A. Kupchan

Chair of Eurasia Group

David Rank

Senior Advisor to the Cohen Group

Dennis Wilder

Professor of Georgetown University

Douglas Paal

Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Elizabeth Economy

Senior Fellow and Director for Asia studies at the US Council on Foreign Relations

Eric Richardson

Senior Advisor to the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue

Grant Kettering

Chairman of KC Group and heir of a founding shareholder of General Motors

Joseph DeTrani

Former Director of the National Counter Proliferation Center and Senior Advisor to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Josette Sheeran

President of Asia Society

Karl W. Eikenberry

Senior Fellow of Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and former US Ambassador to Afghanistan

Richard Sakwa

Professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent

Richard Weitz

Research Fellow of Hudson Institute

Sergey Karaganov

Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the National Research University–Higher School of Economics

Steve Howard

Secretary General of the Australia-based Global Foundation

Sun Yun

Senior Associate with the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center

Thomas Fingar

Professor of Stanford University and former Chairman of the US National Intelligence Council

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