US-China Relations and Asia Pacific Security


About the Seminar

If one was to build two graphs reflecting, for the first, the trend in US China relations, and for the other, the perceptions and judgements from the regional partners of both, here is what the results might be:

1) US-China relations: The old paradigm that these relations fluctuate but always steer back to a median path – that of interlocking rational interests that prevail over disputes and emotions – is no longer valid. Instead, the graph that we see could be called a cliffhanger: relations are in a steady fall from the top of a cliff but tend to find short-term platforms on which to hang on, before the deterioration resumes.

2) Regional perceptions: Whether from Northeast Asia or from Southeast Asia, the graph would show sharp oscillations around a neutral line, reflecting both the region’s anxiety and the impossibility to find a satisfying mid-range path for US-China relations. Too much direct entente between China and the US would create at worst a G2 condominium, at best would be achieved at the expense of regional partners. Actual conflict requires regional partners to take sides and contribute to one or the other of the clashing principals. Asia loves deterrence but hates actual conflict.

Practical illustrations of these graphs/trends will review the change of strategic outlook from the United States from 2008 to the present, and the accelerating trends in assertiveness from China over the same period. For regional parties, we will look at the cases of the Republic of Korea through time, and that of Asean partners.

We will then speculate on what might either reverse the trend to deteriorated relations between China and the United States, or alternatively how regional partners can find a stable balance under adverse global conditions.

About the Speaker

François Godement is Senior Advisor for Asia to Institut Montaigne, Paris. He is also a non-resident Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., and an external consultant for the Policy Planning Staff of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Until December 2018, he was the Director of ECFR’s Asia & China Program and a Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR. A long-time professor at France’s National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations and Sciences Po, he created Centre Asie IFRI at the Paris-based Institut Français des Relations Internationales (1985-2005), and, in 2005, he founded the Asia Centre. He is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de la Rue d’Ulm (Paris), where he majored in history, and was a postgraduate student at Harvard University. In 1995 he co-founded the European committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP), which he co-chaired until 2008. His last published book (with Abigael Vasselier) is La Chine à nos portes – une stratégie pour l’Europe, Odile Jacob, 2018.


For registration, please click here. Registration closes on 9 January 2020.


Jan 10 2020


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2