ASIA TRENDS 2017 – Alliance Management in East Asia: A System under Stress by Mr Daniel C. Sneider
Date : 05 Dec 2017
Time : 19:00 - 20:30
Venue : National Library Singapore
The Pod Level 16
100 Victoria St. Singapore 188064


The stability and prosperity of East Asia, itself a foundation of global growth, rests on a system of security alliances created by the United States in the early days of the Cold War. In Northeast Asia, the American presence has endured for more than six decades and remains deeply embedded in the alliances created with Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Those bilateral alliances are interwoven in the broader region with other security pacts, such as with Australia – the so-called “hub and spokes” structure.

Today this system of bilateral alliances is under severe stress. It faces the challenge from a China that sees itself as the natural leader, if not hegemon, of East Asia. Russia, in its perpetual search for a restoration of its status as a global power, has ambitions in East Asia as well. The unresolved Cold War division of the Korean peninsula, which had settled into an uneasy status quo, now threatens to trigger serious conflict due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Japan and South Korea increasingly question the staying power of the United States in the region, as do allies and partners in Southeast Asia.

Not least, the alliance system faces the unnerving emergence of a U.S. government, led by President Donald Trump, which trumpets an “America First” outlook that actively questions the value and importance of the alliance system.

Alliance management has always been a poorly understood aspect of foreign policy. Policy makers and scholars tend to focus, understandably, on enemies and adversaries and the nature of conflict. But arguably, the management of alliances, especially in the era of limits on power, is of far greater importance. The alliance system in East Asia is one of the great triumphs of postwar American foreign policy, along with the creation of NATO. But the lessons of that triumph are not well understood. The lessons of diplomacy found in the creation of the alliances and their management during the Cold War period, and beyond, are essential to facing the challenges of today.


Daniel Sneider is a Lecturer in East Asian Studies at Stanford University and a scholar at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford. He was previously the associate director for research at the center, where he directed the center’s Divided Memories and Reconciliation project, a comparative study of the formation of wartime historical memory in East Asia. Sneider is the co-author of a book on wartime memory and elite opinion, Divergent Memories, from Stanford University Press. He is the co-editor, with Dr Gi-Wook Shin, of Divided Memories: History Textbooks and the Wars in Asia, from Routledge and of Confronting Memories of World War II: European and Asian Legacies, from University of Washington Press. Sneider’s other research is focused on current U.S. foreign and national security policy in Asia and on the foreign policy of Japan and Korea. He is currently working on a diplomatic history of the creation and management of the U.S. security alliances with Japan and South Korea during the Cold War. His writings frequently appear in major publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Christian Science Monitor, Yale Global, The National Interest, International Economy, Toyo Keizai and The Asahi Shimbun. He is a former foreign correspondent who served in Japan, India, and the former Soviet Union and a former syndicated columnist for Knight Ridder. He received his BA from Columbia University and his Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


ASIA TRENDS is an ARI flagship public outreach event. This annual series of public lectures showcase the work of ARI's research clusters, highlights the relevance of ARI's research to Singapore, and relates Singapore to the rest of Asia from the perspective of significant trends in the region. It is an opportunity for ARI to connect with the larger Singapore community through sharing and interacting with various public sectors (citizenry, government), civil society organizations, businesses, universities and colleges, by presenting cutting edge research on major trends in Asia. Some trends examined in the past include " China's Religious Renaissance," "The Cost of Care," "Perspectives on Marital Dissolution: Divorce Biographies in Singapore," "Creating Centralities" and “What is Sinophone World Literature?: China, Southeast Asia, and the Global 60s”. Each ARI research cluster hosts an evening talk, during which usually an overseas speaker, who is a prominent researcher or scholar, is invited to examine an emergent trend in that research field; a Singapore-based researcher then provides comments on local development with regard to the trend in question. Past seminars have witnessed interesting interaction between speakers and commentators and lively audience participation in the discussions.

Contact Person(s)
Sharon ONG