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The 21st Annual Gaston Sigur Memorial Lecture: China’s Rise and the Challenge to East Asian Security

The Sigur Center for Asian Studies hosts its 21st Annual Gaston Sigur Memorial Lecture on the impact of China's rise on East

May 3, 2016 1:45pm

Concerns that a rising China will attempt to drive America from East Asia or even become a global superpower rival of the United States are both common and misplaced. But China is already powerful enough to destabilize a region of great importance to the United States and the world. China’s impressive growth in military power projection capability and its ability to put at greater risk forward deployed U.S. forces and bases in Asia pose complex challenges for the United States and its allies and security partners. The situation is not as severe or as dangerous as the Cold War. China is not an adversary of the United States. But a combination of geography, psychology, domestic politics, and military technologies renders coercive diplomacy in 21st century East Asia even more complicated than it was between the superpower camps in the last three decades of the Cold War. The United States and its regional partners face significant and growing difficulties in dissuading China from attempting to solve its many sovereignty disputes through coercion or the use of force. A successful strategy will require a strong U.S. regional presence combined with assurances that the purpose of that presence is not to prevent China’s continued rise to prominence on the international stage.

Thomas J. Christensen is William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War and Director of the China and the World Program at Princeton University. At Princeton he is also faculty director of the Masters of Public Policy Program and the Truman Scholars Program. From 2006-2008 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs with responsibility for relations with China, Taiwan, and Mongolia. His research and teaching focus on China’s foreign relations, the international relations of East Asia, and international security. His most recent book, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (W.W. Norton, 2015) was an editors’ choice at the New York Times Book Review and was selected as “Book of the Week” on CNN”s Fareed Zakaria GPS. Christensen received his B.A. with honors in History from Haverford College, M.A. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University. He is currently the Chair of the Editorial Board of the Nancy B. Tucker and Warren I. Cohen Book Series on the United States in Asia at Columbia University Press. He is a member of the Academic Advisory Board for the Schwarzman Scholars Program. Professor Christensen is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Non-Resident Senior Scholar at the Brookings Institution. In 2002 he was presented with a Distinguished Public Service Award by the United States Department of State.