International responses to the tribunal’s ruling in the South China Sea have raised questions about the stability of the Asia-Pacific region and what roles the United States and China have in it. In this podcast, Paul Haenle and Elizabeth Economy discuss the roots of increased instability in East Asia, which includes tension surrounding the South China Sea and cross-strait relations, and how these issues fit into a broader evaluation of President Obama’s legacy in the region.

Economy argues that despite Beijing’s vocal opposition to the tribunal’s ruling, China wishes to avoid conflict and should seek off-ramps to prevent escalation through joint projects with regional neighbors. Meanwhile, Economy says the United States should continue to strengthen its regional partners’ maritime capabilities while ensuring that disagreements over the ruling do not evolve into a bilateral standoff between the United States and China. On Taiwan, she discusses mainland China’s distrust of President Tsai and the dangers of undermining cross-strait relations. Economy believes the United States’ rebalance to Asia is a necessary response to China’s new assertive foreign policy. While the rebalance has been succesful in some areas, she says it has yet to be fully implemented, which can be seen through the ongoing TPP negotiations.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolian Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former president George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

Elizabeth Economy

Elizabeth Economy is the C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the United States and served as a member and then vice chair of WEF's Global Agenda Council on the Future of China from 2008 to 2014.