An American strategy for the Indo-Pacific in an age of US-China competition

Enhancing alliances, economic engagement, and regional stability

Handout photo dated October 28 2022 of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO-202) in the Philippine Sea. Chancellorsville is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific and is assigned to Commander, Task Force 70, a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of its allies and partners in the region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stack via ABACAPRESS.COM

Executive summary

Global ChinaThe United States is a leading Indo-Pacific power with an abiding interest in sustaining a strong alliance network and maintaining a free and open regional order that delivers peace, stability, and economic prosperity. The Indo-Pacific is a dynamic region experiencing a rewiring of the lines of security and economic cooperation, as minilateral networks continue to grow and mega trade agreements take hold. The most significant development in the Indo-Pacific is the emergence of China as a peer competitor to the United States. Chinese actions that undermine vital U.S. interests include the use of coercion — whether in the form of gray-zone tactics, political interference, economic pressure, or military force — to weaken the U.S. alliance system in Asia, press unilateral territorial claims, and settle international disputes with disregard to international law. China also seeks to undermine democratic resilience in the region and incorporate Taiwan into the People’s Republic of China, even though its people reject the terms offered.

To sustain U.S. interests and efforts in the Indo-Pacific, we offer three sets of recommendations:

  1. Deepening alliances, partnerships, and coalitions. The U.S. should deepen its security alliances, enhance minilateral cooperation initiatives such as the Quad, engage actively with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its individual members, including Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam; deepen relations with India; and redouble efforts to promote trilateral U.S.-Japan-Korea collaboration.
  2. Increasing economic engagement and opportunity. The United States should strive to obtain economically meaningful outcomes through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), devise supply chain resilience initiatives that foster cohesion with U.S. partners, partake in digital trade agreements, and restore trade liberalization to its policy toolkit. The United States should pursue membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) to advance its economic and foreign policy interests, and it should coordinate with allies and partners to deliver infrastructure finance to enable regional connectivity in the physical and digital domains.
  3. Enhancing deterrence and sustaining the long peace. On Taiwan policy, the United States should enhance communication with both Beijing and Taipei to strengthen deterrence and reassurance and to establish conflict-avoidance measures. Given North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations, the United States must continue to reassure its allies, particularly South Korea, of its commitment to extended deterrence, while leaving room for engagement if the North Korean regime decides to return to the negotiation table. Since China is continuing to make aggressive moves to enforce its far-reaching sovereignty claims in the East China and South China seas, the United States must continue to assert the importance of a rules-based maritime order that includes freedom of the seas and unimpeded commerce.