FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted “China’s Influence in the Indo-Pacific” Jan. 27 at the Arnold Conference Room, Lewis and Clark Center, Fort Leavenworth. The panel of a Command and General Staff College scholar, an international officer, and a non-profit analyst continued CASO’s focus on the Indo-Pacific area for this academic year.
Maj. Gen. Donn H. Hill, Deputy Commanding General for Education, Combined Arms Center; and Provost of the Army University, provided opening remarks. Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, Director, CASO, served as the panel moderator. Panel Members included Russell Hsiao of the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, Col. Francois Mariotti, French Liaison to the Combined Arms Center, and Lt. Col. David W. Bell of the Command and General Staff College.
Hill opened the panel introducing members and saying the panel was great because we always bring in different people with different perspectives. “There is no easy button when it comes to geopolitics and the problem sets of the complex world we live in,” he said. “The question today is what are the potential threats from China to ourselves and our allies? What does and should competition with China look like in the Indo-Pacific?”
Hsiao began the presentations by the panelists. Hsiao is the Executive Director of the Global Taiwan Institute and a senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation. The Washington-based institute describes itself as “a policy incubator for ideas that enhance U.S.-Taiwan relations and engages Taiwan in its own right.
His focus was an overview of China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. He introduced the concept of “Sharp Power”—the intent to sap the integrity of independent institutions. It limits free expression and distorts the political environment.
Three case studies formed the basis of Hsiao’s presentation—Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan. Although methods vary from country to country, influence targets such as elites, political parties, diaspora, media, grass root organizations, cultural institutions, and corporations are common between them.
Mariotti spoke remotely from his home because of COVID precautions. He talked about the French presence in the Indo-Pacific. “France is involved in the area with grounds, people, and a significant economic exclusive zone,” he said. He noted France has the global presence of a state, nearly 2 million French Citizens, approximately 8,000 Soldiers and 13 Navy vessels in the area.
“France sees three dynamics that are shaking the balance of tension in the area,” Mariotti said. The three areas are China’s increased strategic competition, the move back of multilateralism, and the shrinking of the geostrategic geometry.
France has four families of priorities in Indo-China said Mariotti—protect sovereignty, contribute to security around the French regions, preserve freedom and rights, and enforce strategic stability through multilateralism.
Bell spoke about the Indonesia perspective in the region. Bell is an instructor in CGSC’s Department of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations. He is a Southeast Asia Foreign Area Officer with experience in Indonesia.
He had four key takeaways. 1. Indonesia is a key partner in the Indo-Pacific no matter who you are. 2. Indonesia values its relationship with the United States and China. 3. Indonesia doesn’t want to be forced to choose between its relationships. 4. Indonesia is just as suspicious of the U.S. as it is of China.
“Indonesia sees itself as having a thousand friends and no enemies,” said Bell. The country’s strength is founded on its economic growth, he said. Indonesia is currently the 10th largest economy in the world. Within 10 years it is expected to grow to be between the 5th and 7th largest. But, said Bell, territorial sovereignty is even more important than economic growth.
Following presentations by the panel members, the audience of more than 50 in the conference room and those attending by Facebook and video teleconference were able to ask questions of the panel.
This panel is part of series of seminars and panel discussions on issues of operational and strategic importance to the United States that CASO in coordination with CGSC, universities, think tanks, interagency organizations and other partners conducts every two to three months broadcasting them through Video Teleconference and live on CGSC's Facebook page. Videos of the sessions are available on the CGSC Facebook and YouTube sites.
The next CASO panel is set for March. For questions on CASO events please contact: Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, Director, Cultural and Area Studies Office, U.S. Army CGSC at (913) 684-3345 or firstname.lastname@example.org.