- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Asia's Global Influence: How Is It Exercised? What Does It Mean?

A report from the 2010 Asia Policy Assembly


As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, the international landscape reflects the global influence of an empowered and developing Asia-Pacific. In the decades ahead, many of our country’s most critical overseas interests will be in Asia, entailing both challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, America must be better prepared to understand developments in the region, as they are crucial to our country’s economic vitality, national security, and environmental well-being, as well as our continued efforts to promote human liberty.

Asia requires greater attention in the policy community, and stronger bridges are necessary between the policy world and academe. The field of contemporary Asia Studies needs enhanced attention, both to boost its strength and to assemble its most capable minds to work on policy-relevant issues. To address these needs, the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have established the National Asia Research Program (NARP) to reinforce the importance of area studies for understanding critical Asia policy issues.

The inaugural Asia Policy Assembly convened June 17–18, 2010, in Washington, D.C. The event drew over 300 attendees; including preeminent scholars on Asia, leaders in industry and business, key policymakers, and university faculty and students.

As the signature event of the National Asia Research Program, the Asia Policy Assembly provides a forum for inquiry and debate among members of the academic, philanthropic, and policymaking communities as they confront policy challenges arising in Asia. The event also serves as a vehicle to disseminate the policy-relevant research findings of NARP Research Associates and Fellows.

At the Assembly, we also awarded the Scalapino Prize—honoring the legacy of Robert Scalapino, arguably the United States’ foremost scholar of Asia over the past 60 years—to David Lampton for his scholarship, service, and leadership in Asia Studies.

Alongside the Assembly, NBR and the Wilson Center hosted a private meeting of the NARP Presidents’ Council. At this meeting, representatives of U.S. universities and grantmaking foundations discussed ways to strengthen Asia Studies and to provide new generations of scholars with the expertise and tools necessary to effectively inform the policy process.

It is our hope that the National Asia Research Program will help to lay the foundation for a new century of informed policy and scholarship, so that those involved in the decisionmaking process can make the best possible choices when crafting policy, and through this, help build a safer, more prosperous, and sustainable world. We sincerely thank our partners, associates and fellows, friends, and colleagues for their support in helping us build such a tremendous program and realize a long-held dream


Robert M. Hathaway,
Director, Asia Program
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar

Richard J. Ellings,
The National Bureau of Asian Research


The Asia Policy Assembly involved many high-level U.S. policymakers as keynote speakers: Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Congressman Norm Dicks, Senators Christopher “Kit” Bond and Jim Webb, and former Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth.

The speakers addressed the growing demand for Asia specialists and policy-relevant studies focused on Asia. Several acknowledged how academe can have a positive influence on foreign policy by providing a sense of perspective and long-term strategic thinking about the forces at play. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of recognizing the complexity of U.S. relations with Asia and the interconnection of seemingly distinct issues, a strength that the policymaking community can bring to academic discussions often artificially restricted by discipline.

In his opening remarks, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg addressed the pressing need for long-term thinking in government. “One of the things that I’ve learned over my years in government,” he said, “particularly in my path as a policy planner, is that you take your eye off these longer-term trends at your peril if you only focus on the challenges of the moment. [We must] prepare ourselves for the long term and to do the kind of thinking that’s necessary and, both at the Wilson Center and NBR, you’re doing just that.” Deputy Secretary Steinberg spoke about the complexities of U.S. relations with Asian countries and identified policy challenges and opportunities for the United States in Asia.

Congressman Norm Dicks also stressed the importance of learning about many complex dimensions of Asia in formulating effective policy toward the region, particularly when “national security should not be considered in isolation from many other facets of global relationships.”

Such a multifaceted view of Asia allows the policy community to broaden debate in academe that is often restricted by disciplinary divisions. Economists, political scientists, and historians are not often in regular contact about critical issues. Area studies programs, in contrast, attempt to transcend these disciplinary boundaries in an effort to fully understand the specifics of a particular region. But while area studies scholars are better positioned to directly inform and strengthen policy, they typically receive much less institutional support.

Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond spoke about the need for both long-term thinking and a nuanced perspective in his discussion of “smart power” in Southeast Asia. As Senator Bond described, “Smart power goes beyond military force and looks at economic development and diplomatic exchanges with hostile or neutral countries. It gives voice to those who live and work and know about Southeast Asia and shows the solid steps we can take to improve our understanding. We have to increase educational exchanges. We need to provide assistance. In the region there is a tremendous desire for greater economic ties and investment.”

Senator Jim Webb pointed out that the linchpin of U.S. influence in Asia has been our alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea. However, questions remain as to when, how, and if the United States will effectively engage China in a mutually beneficial security dialogue. Senator Webb pointed to other issues that in the meantime may also prove critical, such as water rights on the Mekong and other rivers, domestic political stability in Thailand, and sovereignty over Pacific islands.

While the other keynote speakers highlighted the demand for long-term thinking in the policymaking world, former Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth, now of the Boeing Company, discussed how scholars can address this need by asking, “What can academia give back to the policy community?” He suggested that scholars can provide a broader perspective by being an invaluable source of information outside mainstream policy. Scholars and institutions of higher education have a special relationship with those students who grow up to be leaders, and they also possess the perspective necessary to view history dispassionately and thus avoid knee-jerk reactions to crises. As Mr. Roth put it, “Facts should not be confused with wisdom.”


At the Asia Policy Assembly, over 90 Asia experts, including the first group of NARP Research Associates and Fellows gave prepared remarks on the Geopolitics and Grand Strategy five key topics outlined in NARP research agenda: geopolitics and grand strategy; global trade, finance, and investment; international security and military modernization; energy, health, and the environment; and domestic transitions and transformations.

Geopolitics and Grand Strategy

What new great-power configurations are emerging in Asia, and how are these affecting the regional and global balances of power? If the 20th century was an Atlantic century, then the 21st century will arguably be a Pacific century, most likely dominated by the rise of China. With a rapidly urbanizing population, consistently high economic growth, and increasing political and military power, China possesses ample self-confidence. The emergence of China has been sometimes viewed as a threat to the United States and its regional allies. This zero-sum formulation, however, fails to account for instances in which China has contributed to regional stability, such as during the Asian financial crisis of 1997– 98. Understanding the sources and likely uses of Chinese power, and determining appropriate policies to engage China as a regional stakeholder, will be a key part of U.S. policy discussions in the decades ahead.

U.S. Grand Strategy in Asia

Asia’s resurgence is a turning point in world history. Discussions at the Assembly were conducted on the basis of an assumption that in the decades ahead, many of America’s greatest interests overseas—entailing opportunities as well as challenges—will be in Asia. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer defined the United States as an Asia-Pacific power, and said that “our future is deeply and inexorably intertwined with the future of Asia.” To get Asia right, he argued, the United States, first, must keep its alliances with Japan and Korea healthy and, second, must seek to develop deeper relations with new partners in the region such as Indonesia and India. On U.S.-China relations, he stated that “China and the United States must work together to find ways to cooperate in areas where we have a convergence of interests, and where our interests diverge, we must work to keep open dialogue to better understand and manage those differences.”

What are the implications of new great-power configurations for Asia’s regional institutions and security architectures? The U.S. role in Asia has been managed through its alliances, which will remain a critical component of Asia’s future security architecture. At the same time, the United States needs to engage in regionalization in Asia, as new institutions address the range of existing complex security, political, and economic challenges facing the region.

Global Trade, Finance, and Investment

How are patterns of economic interdependence and trade with Asia changing? Asia will play a critical role in the global economy. The APEC economies alone constitute 45% of global trade, and Asia is the world’s number one recipient of foreign direct investment. The failure of the WTO Doha round has encouraged individual economies to pursue alternative trade agreements, both bilateral and multilateral in nature, which may distort global free markets.

Cooperation on trade and investment will continue to generate the most fruitful avenues for agreement and solidarity between Asian economies and the United States. Asia is the engine of global economic growth. The current economic malaise has been mitigated to some degree by the quick rebound of Asian economies.

It is important, however, to exercise prudence and look at history’s lessons. China’s unusual economic system, deeply associated with economic statism, has unique strengths that have propelled its huge population toward unprecedented prosperity. Yet the optimism regarding the sustainability of the China model depends crucially on assumptions of domestic political stability and unfettered access to global markets, even while the growing divergence between GDP growth and personal income is intensifying social tensions in China.

International Security and Military Modernization

What or whom do different Asian countries see as their major threats? Increasing concentration of military power, combined with legacies of unresolved historical animosities and nascent great-power competitions, provides a backdrop to the most significant security challenges arising from Asia: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the war in Afghanistan, and continued tensions between India and Pakistan. At the same time, nontraditional security threats play a larger role in in the modern threat calculus. Issues such as global warming, the security of global manufacturing commodity and supply chains, cybersecurity, and the proliferation of dangerous technologies and materials are increasingly on the minds of defense planners. Other major threats to Asian states stem from transnational networks of nonstate actors such as terrorists, pirates, smugglers, and insurgents.

Globalization, despite its largely positive consequences, has had a negative impact in some developing countries in Asia, which have seen the emergence of armed ethnic, religious, or ideological groups.

Regional Security Challenges in Asia

In addition to the broad range of issues related to Asia’s increasing global influence, the Asia Policy Assembly called attention to security challenges in different geographic regions within Asia. In Northeast Asia , uncertainty about North Korea after Kim Jong- il is increasingly becoming a destabilizing factor, particularly with regard to the country’s nuclear program. Another factor that may determine the future stability of the region lies in the relationship between China and Japan, well demonstrated in their rivalry over maritime space in East Asia. Maritime security in Southeast Asia, by contrast, is under threat from nonstate actors such as pirates, terrorists, and smugglers. The problem of weak states prevails here and in parts of South Asia, due to the diversity in ethnicity, language, and religion. Improving political, economic, and social conditions in individual countries is significant to security in Central Asia, where liberalization and democratization have largely stalled in the face of corruption, crime, and terrorism.

Energy, Health, and the Environment

As states in Asia grow denser in population and rural to urban migration continues, the risk of pandemic disesase increases dramatically. Asian states operate from radically different paradigms when it comes to supporting the health of their respective populations. China’s top-down approach to pandemic response, utilizing a containment policy, was initially effective but became less so as the pandemic spread. The containment policy, combined with an insufficient supply of vaccines, has been shown to actually prolong pandemics and impede the development of broad immunity to viruses.

Environmental challenges across Asia are varied and vast. One of the most important environmental issues involves the growing problem of water resources in parts of China, South Asia, and across Southeast Asia. In addition, how the Himalayan water sources and reserves are used could potentially strain domestic and international politics. Environmental degradation and resource scarcity could seriously limit the economic and social development of many Asian states. The central question for U.S. policymakers, therefore, is how Asian states—China, in particular—will sustain economic growth in the face of scare resources and environmental fragility.

Domestic Transitions and Transformations

What impact have rapid economic and political transformations had on the domestic politics and foreign policies of Asian states? Examining the political transitions and social changes occurring in long- time U.S. allies Japan and SouthKorea, as well as in emerging democracies, such as Indonesia, shows how domestic political developments affect international affairs.

The seemingly intractable crisis over U.S. military bases on Okinawa illustrates how the 2009 election of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) changed not only Japanese politics but also the management of foreign policy with a key ally. The sometimes tense relationship between the United States and South Korea is another example of how the growing diversity of an electorate can influence the management of an alliance. Indonesia demonstrates the dangerous naivety of assuming that democratization in Asia will bring about a common foreign policy stance with the United States. In Indonesia, democratization has made it easier for economic nationalists to influence policy.

Domestic transitions and transformations in Asian states may have upset the patterns that U.S. policymakers are accustomed to. Yet rather than viewing these changes as a threat, the United States should see them as an opportunity to face the post–Cold War era in Asia.


The inaugural Asia Policy Assembly honored a man whose influence on Asia Studies goes far beyond the 39 books he has published, the 540 articles he has written, and the countless awards he has received. Robert A. Scalapino, professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, helped give rise to the field of contemporary Asia Studies in the United States.

Honoring a Distinguished Life Dedicated to Scholarship in Asia: The Scalapino Prize Award Ceremony

The Scalapino Prize honors the legacy of Robert A. Scalapino, arguably America’s foremost scholar of Asia over the past 60 years. The Scalapino Prize will be presented at each Asia Policy Assembly to a leading U.S. scholar from that year’s class of NARP Research Associates and Fellows whose career demonstrates the dedication exemplified by Dr. Scalapino in understanding Asia and advancing effective U.S. engagement with the region.

In keeping with the NARP’s mission to reinvigorate and promote the policy-relevant study of Asia, NBR and the Wilson Center awarded the inaugural Scalapino Prize to David M. Lampton (Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies).

Dr. Scalapino’s list of accomplishments is long and his career storied. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Santa Barbara College (now the University of California at Santa Barbara), where he served as student body president during his last term. He married Ida Mae Jessen shortly after graduation and went on to have three children: Leslie, Dianne, and Lynne. He then earned his MA and PhD from Harvard University. Dr. Scalapino’s first experience with Asia came in 1943 when he served as a Naval Intelligence Officer. His first deployment was on the island of Okinawa during the height of conflict in the Pacific Theater. He went on to have an unrivalled teaching career, training multiple generations of Asia scholars, founding influential institutions such as the National Committee on U.S.–China Relations (where he served as the first chairman) and the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and earning a seat on the board of directors at the Council on Foreign Relations and membership with the Academy of Arts and Sciences.

NBR and the Wilson Center awarded the inaugural Scalapino Prize to David M. Lampton (Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies). The award was presented on the evening of the first day of the Assembly, June 17, in recognition of Dr. Lampton’s exceptional contributions to America’s understanding of the vast changes underway in Asia.

Dr. Scalapino, who attended the Assembly, received heartfelt praise and huge ovations from his colleagues and former students, who eagerly shared stories about him during the award reception. In addition to his renowned scholarship on Asia, Mark Valencia (Nautilus Institute) talked about his “sense of adventurism” and how he “always wants to see what is around the next corner.” Jonathan Pollack (The Brookings Institution) remarked, “I have always regarded him as a source of wisdom, somebody I can turn to when I have had to make decisions.” Thomas Fingar (Stanford University) praised Dr. Scalapino as his role model, noting that “there are very few academics that carve out a niche that is wider than one sub-issue. Bob is unconstrained by boundaries.” Donald Emmerson (Stanford University) described Dr. Scalapino as a true conciliator, who can moderate contentious scholars “in an intellectually legitimate, interesting, fascinating, creative way.” Many other colleagues portrayed Dr. Scalapino as a “conscientious teacher” who has pursued his work with “indefatigable energy.”

The NARP President’s Council Participants

Arizona State University
The Asia Foundation
Barnard College
Bryn Mawr College
Boston University
Bowdoin College
Columbia University
Cornell University
The Ford Foundation
Georgetown University
The Henry Luce Foundation
Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University-Purdue University
Japan-United States Friendship Commission
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Macalester College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michigan State University
Middlebury College
Oberlin College
Pomona College
Rutgers University
Sarah Lawrence College
Smith College
Tulane University
The United States-Japan Foundation
University of Florida
University of Montana
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Washington


The NARP Presidents’ Council is an exclusive group of heads of higher education institutions, research organizations, and foundations in the United States who are committed to encouraging Asia-focused, policy-relevant research and training at their organizations. The Presidents’ Council first met in June 2009 to discuss the state of area studies in institutions of higher learning. University presidents examined ways in which they could encourage Asia specialists to produce policy-relevant work and integrate that research and expertise into policymaking.

On June 17, 2010, on the sidelines of the Asia Policy Assembly, the Presidents’ Council met again for further discussion, led by Professors Stephen Hanson of the University of Washington and Jeffrey Riedinger of Michigan State University, this time with philanthropic leaders joining university representatives. At this meeting, Richard Ellings stressed the importance of area studies to the future of policymaking and of bridging the gap between academe and policy. The Council discussed the recent trends that have led to the decline of area studies programs and their implications.

Over the coming years the Council’s agenda will focus on working to promote area studies within institutions of higher learning. By cultivating support from university leaders, the Council will help attract new scholars and bolster the National Asia Research Program.


The National Asia Research Program

National Asia Research Associates and Fellows: Inaugural Class



Lee H. Hamilton, Co-Chair
President and Director,
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

George F. Russell, Jr., Co-Chair
Chairman Emeritus,
The National Bureau of Asian Research

Presidents’ Council Chairs

Mark Emmert
University of Washington

Lou Anna K. Simon
Michigan State University


Richard Ellings, Co-Director
The National Bureau of Asian Research

Robert Hathaway, Co-Director
Director of the Asia Program,
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Advisory Council

Robert A. Scalapino, University of California, Berkeley (Honorary Chairman)

Thomas Christensen, Princeton University

June Teufel Dreyer, University of Miami

Thomas Fingar, Stanford University

Ellen Frost, Peterson Institute for International Economics

Aaron Friedberg, Princeton University

Terrill Lautz, Syracuse University

T.J. Pempel, University of California, Berkeley

Thomas Pickering, Hills & Company

Kenneth Pyle, University of Washington

J. Stapleton Roy, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Ashley Tellis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Selection Committee

The members of the National Asia Research Program Selection Committee, whose identities remain confidential, represent a varied mix of scholars who both collectively and individually possess a keen understanding of the challenges inherent in constructing an interdisciplinary study of Asia. They have demonstrated leadership in the policy arena and have displayed sensitivity to the need for area studies scholarship. Selection Committee members serve two-year terms and are responsible for reviewing the nominations of potential NARP associates and fellows.

NARP Team at The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR)

Michael Wills, Vice President, Research and Operations
Stephanie Renzi, Project Director (through August 2010)
Melissa Colonno, Assistant Director
Sonia Luthra, Assistant Director (beginning October 2010)
Eunbi Yu, Project Assistant
Daphne Liang, Project Assistant
Joseph Miller, Project Assistant
Jonathan Walton, Project Assistant


Core funding for the National Asia Research Program is provided through a congressional appropriation to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. NBR and the Wilson Center would also like to thank the following sponsors for their generous leadership and support of the National Asia Research Program, the inaugural Asia Policy Assembly, and the Robert Scalapino Symposium.

The Asia Foundation
The Henry Luce Foundation
The Japan Foundation / Center for Global Partnership
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation