Beijing will want to visibly register its displeasure, lest its leaders be accused at home of tolerating Taiwan’s efforts to move further away from China. At the same time, Beijing also will want to preserve some headroom for further escalation should future circumstances require.
Ryan Hass is director of the John L. Thornton China Center and the Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies at Brookings. He is also a senior fellow in the Center for East Asia Policy Studies. He was part of the inaugural class of David M. Rubenstein fellows at Brookings, and is a nonresident affiliated fellow in the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School. Hass focuses his research and analysis on enhancing policy development on the pressing political, economic, and security challenges facing the United States in East Asia.
From 2013 to 2017, Hass served as the director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia at the National Security Council (NSC) staff. In that role, he advised President Obama and senior White House officials on all aspects of U.S. policy toward China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, and coordinated the implementation of U.S. policy toward this region among U.S. government departments and agencies. He joined President Obama’s state visit delegations in Beijing and Washington respectively in 2014 and 2015, and the president’s delegation to Hangzhou, China, for the G-20 in 2016, and to Lima, Peru, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meetings in 2016.
Prior to joining NSC, Hass served as a Foreign Service Officer in U.S. Embassy Beijing, where he earned the State Department Director General’s award for impact and originality in reporting, an award given annually to the officer whose reporting had the greatest impact on the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. Hass also served in Embassy Seoul and Embassy Ulaanbaatar, and domestically in the State Department Offices of Taiwan Coordination and Korean Affairs. Hass received multiple Superior Honor and Meritorious Honor commendations during his 15-year tenure in the Foreign Service.
Hass is the author of “Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence” (Yale University Press, 2021), a co-editor of “Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World” (Brookings Press, 2021), of the monograph, “The future of US policy toward China: Recommendations for the Biden administration” (Brookings, 2020), and a co-author of “U.S.-Taiwan Relations: Will China’s Challenge Lead to a Crisis?” (Brookings Press, 2023). He also leads the Democracy in Asia project at the Brookings Institution and is co-chair of the international task force on Taiwan convened by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Hass was born and raised in Washington state. He graduated from the University of Washington and attended the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies prior to joining the State Department.
- American Council of Learned Societies for China Studies, member, steering committee
- Center for Strategic and International Studies, International Task Force on Taiwan, co-chair
- McLarty Associates, senior advisor
- National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, member
- The Asia Foundation, member, board of trustees
- The Scowcroft Group, senior advisor
- Yale Law School, Paul Tsai China Center, nonresident affiliated fellow
Areas of Expertise
- Korean Peninsula
- U.S.-China relations
- East Asian regional security
- Maritime issues
- Nonresident Affiliated Fellow, Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School
- Political Officer, Office of Korean Affairs, Department of State (2017)
- Director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolian Affairs, National Security Council (2013-2017)
- Political Officer, Embassy Beijing (2009-2012)
- Political-Military Officer, Office of Taiwan Coordination, Department of State (2005-2007)
- Consular Officer, Embassy Ulaanbaatar (2005)
- Consular Officer, Embassy Seoul (2003-2005)
- Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (2001-2002)
- B.A., University of Washington, 2001
Media and Appearances
When forced to choose, [China] will prioritize their domestic audience over external audiences, above all, though, I sense that the Chinese are eager to move on. They would like to put the spy balloon issue behind them without appearing to offer any concessions in the process.
The news cycle will move on [from tense recent episodes], and the same challenges in the relationship will remain. Both [Chinese and American] leaders recognize the need to manage risk through direct, hard-nosed diplomacy.
China has a strategic dilemma. They’re frustrated by the status quo, and they’re probing for ways to change it. But taking big, bold actions would come at an extraordinary cost to them. You can’t eliminate the possibility that they would be willing to pay that cost, and so we have to be prepared for it. But if you accept the proposition that war is inevitable, and we must do everything we possibly can to prepare for it now, then you risk precipitating the very outcome that your strategy is designed to prevent.
Both leaders held their ground on key issues without offering concessions in either direction. Even so, Biden and Xi clearly set a tone for their respective governments that tensions must be managed and that neither side seeks unbridled confrontation with the other.
The most valuable commodity in Washington is the president’s time, the more the administration demonstrates capacity to marshal tangible support for meeting the region’s key economic, health, and climate priorities, the more influence the U.S. will gain in the [Indo-Pacific] region.
The crux of [America’s China] strategy is to advance interests, uphold values, and strengthen cohesion with allies and partners. One hopes that the Biden administration will be able to move discussion from questions of toughness to measures of effectiveness in delivering tangible results.
I don’t think it came as any surprise to Beijing that the Biden administration would prioritize efforts to repair alliance relationships, but the speed and the substance at which these efforts are moving forward, I think, has exceeded Beijing’s expectations.