Past Event

Regional vs. Regime Security: Third Parties & the False Choice between the US & China with Isaac Kardon & Sheena Greitens

February 6, 2024
12:00 AM - 1:30 PM
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Why do countries pursue security partnerships with the People's Republic of China?  In particular, why do we observe countries seeking security relationships with both the United States and the PRC?  Conventional wisdom argues that countries "don't want to choose" because they look to China for economics and the U.S. for security, but an increasing number of countries are choosing to pursue security partnerships with both countries simultaneously. What explains these cases?  We argue that the nature of the security goods provided by the US are different from those provided by the PRC: the U.S. tends to offer regional security from external threats, while China tends to offer assistance in bolstering regime security against internal instability.  Thus it is not just that countries "don't want to choose" between economics and security; they also do not want to choose between the security benefits provided by the US and the PRC, as benefits provided by the two countries are complementary rather than substitutive.  We demonstrate our argument through a quantitative comparison of security assistance and case studies of key countries that pursue defined security arrangements with both the US and China, spanning Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.  Our analysis of “third parties” enmeshed in great power competition offers comparative leverage on the nature of China’s overseas projection of its military and other forms of national power, illustrates a vital new characteristic of Chinese foreign policy, and call for a reconsideration of policies predicated on symmetrical security competition between the U.S. and China. 


Sheena Chestnut Greitens is an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.   She is on leave in 2023-24 to serve as a Visiting Associate Professor of Research in Indo-Pacific Security at the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute. Dr. Chestnut Greitens' research focuses on security, authoritarian politics and foreign policy, and East Asia.  At UT, she directs the Asia Policy Program, a joint initiative of the Strauss Center for International Security & Law and the Clements Center for National Security.  She is also a Jeane Kirkpatrick Visiting Fellow at the American  Enterprise Institute (AEI). Her first book, Dictators and Their Secret Police (Cambridge, 2016), examined variations in internal security and repression in Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines during the Cold War, and won multiple academic awards.  Her second book, Politics of the North Korean Diaspora (Cambridge, 2023), focuses on authoritarianism, security, and diaspora politics.  She is currently finishing her third book manuscript, which addresses  how internal security shapes Chinese grand strategy.  Her research has been published in International Security,  International Organization, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Governance, Asian Survey, China Quarterly, and the Journal of Korean Studies, as well as outlets such as Foreign Affairs and the New York Times.  

(presenter) Isaac B. Kardon is senior fellow for China studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is concurrently adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, and was formerly assistant professor at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC), where he served as a research faculty member in the China Maritime Studies Institute. Isaac’s research centers on the People’s Republic of China’s maritime power, with specialization in maritime disputes and the international law of the sea, PRC global port development, PLA overseas basing, and China-Pakistan relations. His writing appears in International Security, Security Studies, Foreign Affairs, the Naval War College Review, as well as other scholarly and policy publications. Isaac’s book, China’s Law of the Sea: The New Rules of Maritime Order (Yale, 2023) analyzes whether and how China is “making the rules” of regional and global order.

This event is a hybrid with both in-person attendees and an online audience. It is sponsored by the China and the World Program and co-sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. To register for the online event please register here or If you are attending in-person, please go to 'INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS BUILDING AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY - 420 W. 118TH ST., NEW YORK, NY 10027 ROOM 918' 



Isaac B Kardon USNWC Headshot