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The Biden Administration’s Indo-Pacific Policy

Andrew Taffer
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Background

This memo is part of a larger effort by CNA’s China & Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Division that is examining how allies, partners, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are assessing US policy in the Indo-Pacific. It focuses on how select allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific were viewing US policy toward the region during the initial months of the new US administration. The views herein are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the views of CNA or any of its sponsors.

Introduction

The Biden administration has made the Indo-Pacific a focus of its foreign policy. The Department of Defense continues to regard the Indo-Pacific as its “priority theatre,” and President Biden has characterized China as “our most serious competitor,” pledging to “counter its aggressive, coercive action.” The administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance declares that “our vital national interests compel the deepest connection to the Indo-Pacific” as well as Europe and the Western Hemisphere. To this end, the interim guidance states that “we will reinvigorate and modernize our alliances and partnerships around the world,” deepening “our partnership with India…as well as Singapore, Vietnam, and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, to advance shared objectives.” Indeed, President Biden has consistently emphasized the central role that US allies and partners play in advancing US foreign policy goals. Regarding China, he stated in February 2021 that the US will “compete from a position of strength…by working with our allies and partners,” and in September, he characterized US alliances as “our greatest source of strength,” critical to “meet the threats of today and tomorrow.”

This report surveys a range of views from Indo-Pacific allies and partner states on the Biden administration’s Asia policy. The allies and partners surveyed in this report include the three non-US members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad)—Australia, India, and Japan—and six ASEAN states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. Because officials are often constrained in what they can say publicly, this report primarily examines the perspectives of think tank analysts (especially those with government affiliations) and opinion leaders, all of whom tend to enjoy greater latitude in expressing their views. While the views expressed by regional subject matter experts (SMEs) should not necessarily be construed as presenting the official positions of their governments, these individuals are, at a minimum, shaping public opinion and in some cases may be informing policy-makers. Given the premium that the Biden administration has placed on strengthening ties with allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific, knowledge of major currents of thinking in partner and ally states on the administration’s policies in the region should have particular utility. 

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Details

  • Pages: 20
  • Document Number: DIM-2021-U-030828-1Rev
  • Publication Date: 12/2/2021