Public event

Challenges in International Security: U.S.-China competition, military coercion, and instability in the Indo-Pacific

As U.S.-China strategic competition intensifies, a key challenge for leaders in both countries is to prevent the outbreak and escalation of conflict, whether over Taiwan Strait, the Korean Peninsula, or maritime territorial disputes. This challenge reflects a broader problem that all nuclear-armed great powers face in the post-Cold War era: how to coerce each other without triggering a large-scale nuclear war. To solve this problem, the United States and China have chosen different approaches to gaining coercive leverage against each other. Those choices reflect asymmetries in geography, interests, military strategy and capabilities in the U.S.-China relationship. While the United States has relied on conventional military power and a large, diverse nuclear arsenal to protect allies and underwrite Indo-Pacific security, China has placed much less emphasis on nuclear weapons. Instead, China has compensated for its inability to win a conventional military victory in conflicts on its periphery using threats of large-scale space, cyber, and conventional missile attacks to coerce adversaries below the nuclear threshold. These different approaches interact to create incentives for peacetime competition and escalation risks in a crisis or conflict. U.S. and Chinese approaches to coercion in future conflicts have global implications that will affect European interests in the economic, cyber, space, and nuclear spheres. 

Join us for a presentation by Fiona Cunningham on her recent research on U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific. This event is part the speaker series "Challenges in International Security" hosted by the Centre for International Security.

Guest speaker

Fiona Cunningham is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University and a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 2020/2021. Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology and conflict, with an empirical focus on China. Fiona’s research on nuclear strategy, cyber security, and military operations has appeared in International Security, Security Studies, and The Texas National Security Review. Her work has received support from the Stanton Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and China Confucius Studies Program. Fiona has held fellowships at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. 


Marina Henke is Professor of International Relations at the Hertie School. She researches and publishes on military interventions, peacekeeping, and European security and defense policy. Before joining the Hertie School, she was an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, specialising in international relations and at Princeton University where she was a Lecturer and Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Henke holds a PhD in Politics and Public Policy from Princeton University, a Double-MS in Development Studies and International Political Economy from Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics, and a BA in Economics, Politics and Latin American Studies from Sciences Po Paris.

About the "Challenges in International Security" speaker series

The series invites senior scholars, decision-makers and policy experts to discuss critical global security challenges and their potential solutions.

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