Kurt M. Campbell is CEO and cofounder of the Center for a New American Security. He served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific in the Clinton administration. Before that, he taught at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and served in the Navy. His books include Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security, written with Michael O'Hanlon (Basic Books, 2006). Robert J. Einhorn is senior adviser in the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former assistant secretary for noproliferation at the Department of State. Mitchell B. Reiss was director of the Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William and Mary. Vartan Gregorian is president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Born in Tabriz, Iran of Armenian parents, he received his elementary education in Iran, secondary education in Lebanon, and higher education in the United States. He has served as president of Brown University, president of the New York Public Library, and founding dean and provost of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. President Clinton awarded him the National Humanities Medal in 1998.
Xi's "dominance of the decision-making process [has] made him a powerful but potentially exposed leader," the authors note. To protect his position, Xi will "most probably stimulate and intensify Chinese nationalism—long a pillar of the state's legitimacy—to compensate for the political harm of a slower economy, to distract the public, to halt rivals who might use nationalist criticisms against him, and to burnish his own image."
The report—Xi Jinping on the Global Stage: Chinese Foreign Policy Under a Powerful but Exposed Leader—notes that China's economy, which had expanded at an annual rate of 10 percent for three decades, is entering a new era of considerably slower growth.
To strengthen his position at home, Xi "will probably intensify his personality cult, crack down even harder on dissent, and grow bolder in using the anticorruption campaign against elites who oppose him." Internationally, Xi "may provoke disputes with neighbors, use increasingly strident rhetoric in defense of China's national interests, and take a tougher line in relations with the United States and its allies to shift public focus away from economic troubles."
To deal with Xi's more assertive foreign and defense policies, the authors call for a new American grand strategy for Asia that "seeks to avoid a U.S.-China confrontation and maintain U.S. primacy in Asia."
The authors, both former senior government officials with extensive experience in the region, recommend passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership—an Asia-centered trade deal with countries that represent approximately 40 percent of the global economy—lifting constraints on U.S. exports of oil to Asian allies, and maintaining a commitment to deploy at least 60 percent of the U.S. Navy and Air Force in the Asia Pacific.
They identify the U.S. pivot or rebalance to Asia as "the indispensable ingredient in a successful U.S. policy to participate and project strength more consequentially in the region and to deal with Chinese power and influence under Xi Jinping."