Discussion ensues on U.S. pivot to Asia

Carlynn Hickenbotham

The Clements Center for National Security held a book discussion on “The Pivot” by Kurt Campbell, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. The book focuses on the affairs of East Asia and how the U.S. chose to deal with these matters. 

Although Campbell could not attend the event due to unforeseen circumstances, Michael Green, foreign policy expert in Asian affairs, and Jim Steinberg, former deputy secretary of state, led the discussion. The two discussed the importance of having a strong strategy for Asian foreign policy because of the continent’s advancing technology and America’s need to be able to respond to the possibility of nuclear warfare in North Korea.

Steinberg said he agreed with Campbell’s views in his book on how in order to remain a world power, America would need to make more efforts to establish relations with Southeast Asia.

“Historically, East Asia and China have been a prominent topic in campaigns,” Steinberg said. “Looking back on the Obama administration … the campaign itself heavily focused on East Asia.”

Green said America’s foreign policy in Asia needs to change since China has a large military and the country is a deciding factor in how the U.S. communicates with most Asian countries.

“The reality is that there is a lot more continuity than change in foreign policy,” Green said. “Within Asia strategy, there is a mainstream to look at China as a variable, the biggest variable.” 

Steinberg and Green concluded that China is the key to the significant change the U.S. hopes to bring to Asia. Steinberg said the standstill in China is partially because of China’s unwillingness to cooperate with the U.S., or any other countries, during conflict.

“China’s been unresponsive,” Steinberg said. “Where are the actions by the Chinese providing assurances, looking for ways to work with others to solve the problems they’re supposed to? That’s what creates the anxiety.”

Juan Rodriguez III, international relations and global studies junior, said he attended the event because he was curious about the state of international relations in Asia. 

“I feel like it’s moving in the right direction,” Rodriguez said. “The pivot, in my opinion, should have been done in the 1980s, 1990s, a little earlier than what it is now, but we’re moving in the right direction. Progress, but slow progress.”