Over the last two decades, China has become more engaged internationally, including in conflict zones and fragile states of strategic interest to the United States. From civil wars in neighboring countries, such as Afghanistan and Burma, to more distant conflicts in Africa, China has a substantial influence on local, regional, and international efforts to reduce violent conflict. Meanwhile, a shifting international order and the return of competition among powerful states has raised the potential for geopolitical rivalries to exacerbate conflicts—or, with the right frameworks, serve as areas of constructive cooperation between Washington and Beijing.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in China.
NATO countries meet this week in Madrid, Spain amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, the biggest test the alliance has faced in decades. The summit is expected to focus heavily on demonstrating NATO’s unity, support for Ukraine and the bids of Finland and Sweden — propelled by Russia’s aggressive incursion — to join the alliance. But developments in the Asia-Pacific, chiefly the rise of China, will also be a top item on the agenda, with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea participating at the leader level for the first time at a NATO summit.
Taiwan has been the perennial problematic issue in U.S.-China relations for decades. President Biden’s comments during a recent trip to East Asia put that in stark relief. When asked if the United States would be willing to “militarily defend” Taiwan if China were to invade, Biden said, “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.” Administration officials later appeared to walk back the president’s comments. But Beijing reacted forcefully, conducting military drills close to the island and with numerous Chinese officials condemning the comments. Most recently, at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier this June, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe warned that the People’s Liberation Army will “fight to the very end” if Taiwan dares to “secede” from China. Beijing’s vociferous reaction to Biden’s comments underscores how contentious the Taiwan issue remains and how easily tensions can flare.
While the Ukraine war continues to dominate policymakers’ attention, the Biden administration has engaged in a series of diplomatic initiatives with allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific region over the course of the last two months. The message is clear: Washington sees the Indo-Pacific as the world’s principal geostrategic region, with a host of challenges to meet — like competition with China and climate change — and opportunities to seize, particularly related to technology and the economy.
Beginning in June 2021, USIP convened a group of senior experts to assess concerns that recent geopolitical and technological trends increasingly threaten the tenuous stability of Southern Asia. Over seven virtual plenary sessions, the senior study group assessed the changing capabilities, doctrines, threat perceptions and crisis response behavior of the main regional nuclear actors. Their final report summarizes those findings, considers U.S. policy options and identifies priority recommendations for the resolution or mitigation of core disputes, the enhancement of regional strategic stability, and the management of potential future crises.
Over the last decade, China has become more engaged internationally, including in conflict zones and fragile states of strategic interest to the United States. From civil wars in neighboring countries, such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, to more distant conflicts in Africa, China is becoming an increasingly important player in regional and international efforts to mitigate conflict. In countries where China exerts a strong influence, its engagement can have a substantial impact on local and international efforts to curb violence and extremism.