Dr. Jennifer Staats is the director of East and Southeast Asia Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. She joined USIP in 2016 as the director of the China Program, and she continues to lead USIP’s work on China and its impact on peace and security around the world. She also oversees USIP’s program in Myanmar, as well as the Institute’s work on Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

Dr. Staats previously spent several years working in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she focused on policy issues related to Asia. At the Pentagon, she led the teams that coordinated the Department of Defense’s implementation of the U.S. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and developed long-term strategies for the Department. She also served as a director in the Cyber Policy Office and managed the Asian and Pacific Security Affairs portfolio for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Staats received several awards for her work at DoD, including the Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service.

Before entering government service, Dr. Staats was a fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard’s Belfer Center and a research assistant with the Preventive Defense Project chaired by Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry. She has also lived, worked, and studied in both China and Germany.

Dr. Staats received her doctoral degree from Harvard University, her master's from Princeton University, and her bachelor's from the University of the South (Sewanee). She has been named a Fulbright Scholar, NSEP Boren Fellow, Javits Fellow, Rosenthal Fellow, and NCAA Postgraduate Scholar. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Publications By Jennifer

Four Takeaways from China’s Tour of the Pacific Islands

Four Takeaways from China’s Tour of the Pacific Islands

Thursday, June 9, 2022

By: Jennifer Staats, Ph.D.

In late May, as President Biden was wrapping up his visit to Asia, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, launched a 10-day tour of the Pacific Islands. Almost immediately, news broke that Wang had unexpectedly proposed a sweeping multilateral agreement to deepen Beijing’s security and economic ties with the region, then quickly withdrew it due to lack of support from the Pacific Island countries. This followed a controversial Solomon Islands-China security pact signed in April that set off alarm bells in the United States and Australia over China’s efforts to establish a security presence in the Pacific Islands region.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

Neither Summit, nor Sidebar: Assessing the Biden-Xi ‘Virtual Meeting’

Neither Summit, nor Sidebar: Assessing the Biden-Xi ‘Virtual Meeting’

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

By: Carla Freeman, Ph.D.;  Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.;  Jennifer Staats, Ph.D.

To address growing tensions between the United States and China, particularly over Taiwan, President Joe Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping met virtually on Monday night (Tuesday morning in Beijing) for a three-hour discussion that covered a wide array of contentious issues. Both sides downplayed expectations for the session beforehand and have been relatively subdued albeit somewhat positive in their respective post-meeting statements and spins. Less formal than a summit and more structured than a sidebar, what if anything did the extended virtual top-level bilateral discussion achieve?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

Climate, COVID and China Drive U.S.-Pacific Islands Engagement

Climate, COVID and China Drive U.S.-Pacific Islands Engagement

Monday, August 9, 2021

By: Brian Harding;  Jennifer Staats, Ph.D.

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) held its 51st leaders meeting on August 6, with Fiji serving as virtual host. The PIF is comprised of 18 members, and the United States is among 18 PIF Dialogue Partners that participate in an annual post-forum dialogue. This year, President Joe Biden led the U.S. delegation and delivered his own address, a first for a U.S. president and a demonstration of the strategic importance of Pacific Island nations to U.S. priorities like climate change, COVID-19 and competition with China. USIP’s Jennifer Staats and Brian Harding discuss what PIF members and Washington want from each other and the major issues facing the region.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

EnvironmentGlobal Policy

Is China Getting Serious About Crime on the ‘Belt and Road’?

Is China Getting Serious About Crime on the ‘Belt and Road’?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

By: Jason Tower;  Jennifer Staats, Ph.D.

As China’s leading foreign policy project, its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) should be easy to understand. Yet since its inception in 2013, the BRI has remained remarkably opaque. The government publishes no criteria for approving BRI projects or comprehensive lists of authorized ones. Consequently, a range of Chinese investors—including some linked to organized crime—claim an association with the signature program of China’s leader, Xi Jinping. In host countries, this free-riding identification can threaten governance and stability, while further damaging the international community’s ability to check the spread of related criminal activity.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

EnvironmentConflict Analysis & PreventionEconomics

Beijing Builds Global Support for Draconian Hong Kong Law

Beijing Builds Global Support for Draconian Hong Kong Law

Thursday, July 16, 2020

By: Jennifer Staats, Ph.D.;  Rachel Vandenbrink

China’s new national security legislation went into effect in Hong Kong late on June 30, giving Beijing new tools to control public discourse in the city, eliminating freedom of speech, mandating digital surveillance, and granting China extraterritorial powers to enforce the new law. In response, the United States has revoked Hong Kong’ special economic status and joined other democracies in condemning the law. Yet, a number of other countries have voiced their support for the legislation. By building a coalition of support for the new national security law, Beijing is not only tightening its grip on Hong Kong, but also trying to delegitimize critiques of China’s own domestic policies or system of government and strengthen global opposition to democratic values and the notion of universal human rights.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyDemocracy & Governance

View All