Archive for April, 2011

Schools of thought in China’s foreign policymaking – How should the US respond?

China is a conflicted rising power with an increasingly pluralized foreign policymaking process, characterized by multiple viewpoints across different actors and institutions. What then are the implications for US foreign policy toward China? This question was addressed by a panel of China experts at a symposium on “Worldview of Rising Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates,” held on April 25th at George Washington University.

David Shambaugh, Professor of Political Science at GWU, outlined seven schools of thought in China’s foreign policy discourse and recommended corresponding U.S. policy responses:

  • Nativists are populists and nationalists who distrust the outside world and fiercely criticize the West. The US should be aware of them, but not overstate their influence. They can be ignored.
  • Realists place a premium on building up a strong state that can navigate its own way in the world and resist outside pressures. In short, they want to strengthen China and challenge the United States. For the US, strategic hedging would be the response to this semi-revisionist tendency in China.
  • Major Powers proponents are those who advocate a focus on relations with the world’s major powers and blocs. In other words, they are interested in working with the US, which complements an engagement approach in US foreign policy.
  • Asia First proponents, as the name implies, have a regional focus. They seek to compete with the US and undermine American influence in Asia. In response, the US should maintain its presence, alliances, diplomatic partnerships and soft power in Asia. (more…)
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Rising Powers Conference — Complete video recording on C-SPAN

Click here to watch a video recording of the entire conference on

Worldviews of Rising Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates

Monday, April 25, 2011
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
City View Room
1957 E Street, NW, 7th Floor

8:30-9:00- Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00-9:30 am- Welcome and Introductory Remarks

  • Speakers: Henry R. Nau (GWU) and Deepa Ollapally (GWU)

9:30-10:30 amSession I: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China

  • Chair: Evan Medeiros, Director for Asian Affairs, National Security Council
  • Presenters: Professors David Shambaugh (GWU)
  • Discussant: David Lampton, Johns Hopkins University

10:30-11:30 am Session II: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in Japan

  • Chair: Michael Schiffer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia
  • Presenters: Professors Richard Samuels (MIT) & Narushige Michishita (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Japan)
  • Discussant: Sheila A. Smith, Council on Foreign Relations

11:30 am -12:30 pm Session III: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in India

  • Chair: Robert O. Blake Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs
  • Presenters: Professors Deepa Ollapally (GWU) & Rajesh Rajagopalan (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
  • Discussant: Daniel Markey, Council on Foreign Relations

12:30-2:00 pm Lunch

  • Keynote Speaker: Walter Russell Mead, Bard College

2:00-3:00 pm Session IV: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in Russia

  • Chair: Jim Hoagland, Washington Post
  • Presenters: Drs. Andrew Kuchins (CSIS) & Igor Zevelev (MacArthur- Moscow)
  • Discussant: Thomas Graham, Kissinger & Associates

3:00-4:00 pm Session V: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in Iran

  • Chair: Barbara Slavin, The Atlantic Council
  • Presenters: Professors Farideh Farhi (University of Hawaii-Manoa)
  • Discussant: Gary Sick, Columbia University

4:00-4:15 pm Coffee/Tea Break

4:15-6:00 pm Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy

  • Chairs: Professors Henry R. Nau (GWU) and Deepa Ollapally (GWU)
  • Keynote Discussants: Thomas R. Pickering, Hills and Company and Career Ambassador; David Sanger, New York Times

The Sigur Center gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation for this Symposium.

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Libyan intervention and implications for U.S. relations with China, Russia and India

In previous posts, this blog reviewed the foreign policy debates in China, Russia and India, and examined how these three countries have reacted to the military intervention in Libya.

Continuing this discussion, the latest edition of the Sigur Center Policy Brief  looks at the implications for US foreign policy in managing its relations with these major powers:


The realism and pragmatism in Chinese foreign policymaking means that the Chinese leadership will continue its efforts toward maintaining a stable relationship with the U.S. However, the US should not have any illusions of a G-2 partnership with China, says David Shambaugh. Furthermore, China is simultaneously playing a “global competition game” on strategic, diplomatic and commercial fronts. This is evident in the Middle East, where China’s economic presence is growing. Thus, as the US responds to and manages the potentially sweeping changes in the region, it will be important to consider how China’s management of its relations there will affect the US role in the medium to long term.


With Russia, its mixed reactions to Moscow’s stance on Libya reflect the continued sense of uncertainty about Russia’s role in global politics. This serves as a reminder that the “re-set” in US-Russia relations cannot be taken for granted, despite important milestones such as the recent signing of the new START treaty. It is too early to say whether the intellectual orientation of Russia’s foreign policymaking might evolve, but its domestic vulnerability, coupled with possible changes in its external geopolitical environment, means that Russia will continue to behave as a “price taker, not a price maker” in international politics, according to Andrew Kuchins.


India perhaps offers the best chance of substantive cooperation in the region, despite its current reluctance or even aversion to such an idea. The growing influence of pragmatists in the country’s intellectual landscape means that there will be increasing support for strengthening relations with the United States, despite the inclination of traditional nationalists to avoid alliance politics. India’s economic interests in the Gulf states make a practical case for a more active Indian foreign policy in the region, which could complement its strategic preference for hedging against China’s influence. US policymakers should consider whether this opens avenues for substantive cooperation with India in the critical Middle East region.

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