Authors: Evan A. Feigenbaum, and Robert A. Manning, Senior Adviser, Atlantic Council
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Council on Foreign Relations Press
Council Special Report No. 50
No region of the world today is more dynamic than Asia. Across the continent, booming countries have built engines of economic growth that have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. Along with this economic strength has come increased strategic importance, leading to Asia's emergence as a principal center of global power in the twenty-first century.
As Asia's economic and strategic weight has grown, Asians have sought to build multilateral frameworks capable of effectively channeling the region's energies. But for more than a decade, the United States has mostly watched from the sidelines as proposals multiply and the region organizes itself into an alphabet soup of new multilateral groups.
The Obama administration has an opportunity to help define new roles for the United States in this changing Asia. But to sustain its position in the region, Washington will need to move beyond its traditional "hub and spokes" approach to Asia--with the United States as the hub, bilateral alliances as the spokes, and multilateral institutions largely at the margins of U.S. policy. Otherwise, the United States will pay increasing costs to its interests, credibility, and influence.
In this Council Special Report, commissioned by CFR's International Institutions and Global Governance program, Evan A. Feigenbaum and Robert A. Manning examine Asia's regional architecture and consider what it means for the United States. They identify shortcomings in the region's existing multilateral mix and contend that the United States must increase its involvement in shaping Asian institutions in order to advance U.S. strategic interests and protect the competitiveness of American firms.
The authors outline six principles for U.S. policy toward Asia as a whole and recommend particular policies toward Northeast and Southeast Asia. Among other steps, they urge the United States to maintain a strong presence at Asian meetings; avoid intractable security issues and focus instead on topics ripe for cooperation; make use of ad hoc groupings as well as formal ones; vigorously pursue regional and global trade liberalization efforts; and view some Asian institutions that exclude the United States as acceptable, just as with the European Union.
The report also presents thoughtful recommendations for how Washington can influence the multilateral landscape in ways beneficial to American interests. The result is a document with important implications for U.S. policy toward a region that promises to play a central role in shaping the coming era of history.
Evan A. Feigenbaum is senior fellow for East, Central, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. From 2001 to 2009, he served at the U.S. Department of State in various capacities: as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, deputy assistant secretary of state for Central Asia, member of the policy planning staff with principal responsibility for East Asia and the Pacific, and as an adviser on China to Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, with whom he worked closely in the development of the U.S.-China senior dialogue. During the intensive final phase of the U.S.-India civil nuclear initiative from July to October 2008, he co-chaired the coordinating team charged with moving the agreement through the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and then to Congress, where it became the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act. He received the department's Superior Honor Award five times.
Before his government service, Dr. Feigenbaum worked at Harvard University, where he was lecturer on government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and executive director of the Asia-Pacific Security Initiative and program chair of the Chinese security studies program in the John F. Kennedy School of Government. His books include China's Techno-Warriors: National Security and Strategic Competition from the Nuclear to the Information Age. He received his AB in history from the University of Michigan and his AM and PhD in political science from Stanford University.
Robert A. Manning is a senior adviser to the Atlantic Council. The views in this special report are solely his own and do not represent the U.S. government or any U.S. government agency. Mr. Manning served at the U.S. Department of State from 2001 to 2008, on the policy planning staff and as senior counselor for energy, technology, and science policy. As senior counselor, he advised the undersecretary of state for global affairs and other senior officials on a range of issues, including energy and climate change policy, new energy technologies, development and the Millennium Challenge Account, science and technology issues, and North Korea and Iran nuclear issues. He also was one of the creators of the Global Issues Forum with India and subsequently with China.
From 1997 to 2001, Mr. Manning was director of Asia studies and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he led several Task Force studies, including Task Forces on Korea and Southeast Asia. From 1989 to 1993, Mr. Manning was an adviser for policy and public diplomacy to the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Prior to this, he was an adviser to the office of the secretary of defense. His publications include The Asian Energy Factor; the CFR report China, Nuclear Weapons, and Arms Control; essays on nuclear weapons; numerous journal articles on international energy and Asian security issues; and book chapters in edited volumes on China, Korea, Japan, energy, and energy security.