Active Denial: A Roadmap to a More Effective, Stabilizing, and Sustainable U.S. Defense Strategy in Asia

As relations between the United States and China deteriorate, chances of a military clash are growing. Multiple factors could lead to a major escalatory spiral of conflict in East Asia. Such an escalation is undesirable as, among other things, it would be a threat to the security and prosperity of the United States. The Quincy Institute led a multi-year study by three members of QI’s East Asia Program and seven external partners — spearheaded by former QI Research Fellow Rachel Esplin Odell — to lay out a safer military strategy for the United States in Asia. The strategy, called Active Denial, outlines the military posture needed to reduce chances of escalation in the event of conflict, while ensuring that any Chinese military offensive cannot succeed. If implemented, the strategy will result in annual savings of roughly $75 billion (about 10 percent) by 2035 compared to the Trump administration’s defense plan. Join us for a conversation where we will explore these and other findings from Quincy Institute’s new report, Active Denial: A Roadmap to a More Effective, Stabilizing, and Sustainable U.S. Defense Strategy in Asia. The panel discussion will be led by Michael D. Swaine, Director of the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute; Mike Mochizuki, Japan-U.S. Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur at the Elliott School of International Affairs in George Washington University and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute; and Eric Heginbotham, Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for International Studies. Former Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute Rachel Esplin Odell will moderate.


Michael D. Swaine

Michael D. Swaine, director of QI’s East Asia program, is one of the most prominent American scholars of Chinese security studies. He comes to QI from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he worked for nearly twenty years as a senior fellow specializing in Chinese defense and foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and East Asian international relations. Swaine served as a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. Swaine has authored and edited more than a dozen books and monographs, including Remaining Aligned on the Challenges Facing Taiwan (with Ryo Sahashi; 2019), Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Strategic Net Assessment (with Nicholas Eberstadt et al; 2015) and many journal articles and book chapters. Swaine is directing, along with Iain Johnston of Harvard University, a multi-year crisis prevention project with Chinese partners. He also advises the U.S. government on Asian security issues. Swaine received his doctorate in government from Harvard University and his bachelor’s degree from George Washington University.

Mike Mochizuki

Mike Mochizuki holds the Japan-U.S. Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur at the Elliott School of International Affairs in George Washington University and is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He directs the Elliott School’s undergraduate degree programs and co-directs the “Memory and Reconciliation in the Asia-Pacific” project of the Sigur Center. Mochizuki was Associate Dean for Academic Programs at the Elliott School from 2010 to 2014 and Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies from 2001 to 2005. Previously he was a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was also Co-Director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Policy at RAND and has taught at the University of Southern California and Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. Mochizuki's recent books include Memory, Identity, and Commemorations of World War II: Anniversary Politics in Asia Pacific (co-editor and co-author, 2018); Energy Security in Asia and Eurasia (co-editor and co-author, 2017); Nuclear Debates in Asia: The Role of Geopolitics and Domestic Processes (co-editor and author, 2016); The Okinawa Question: Futenma, the US-Japan Alliance, and Regional Security (co-editor and author, 2013).

Eric Heginbotham

Eric Heginbotham is a principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for International Studies and a specialist in Asian security issues. Before joining MIT, he was a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, where he led research projects on China, Japan, and regional security issues and regularly briefed senior military, intelligence, and political leaders. Prior to that he was a Senior Fellow of Asian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. After graduating from Swarthmore College, Heginbotham earned his PhD in political science from MIT. He is fluent in Chinese and Japanese, and was a captain in the US Army Reserve. Heginbotham was the lead author of the recently released RAND US-China Military Scorecard, and a forthcoming RAND study on China’s Evolving Nuclear Deterrent. He is the coauthor (with George Gilboy) of Chinese and Indian Strategic Behavior: Growing Power and Alarm, published by Cambridge University Press in 2012, and is an editor of China in the Developing World, published by M.E. Sharpe. Heginbotham has published numerous articles in Foreign Affairs, International Security, Washington Quarterly, Current History, and elsewhere. He is currently working on a study of Japanese military options for the 21st century.

Rachel Esplin Odell (Moderator)

Rachel Esplin Odell is an expert in U.S. strategy toward Asia, China's foreign policy, and the politics of the law of the sea. She was a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in 2020–21. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Odell previously worked as a research analyst in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and served in the China Affairs bureau of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Odell’s writings have appeared in Foreign Affairs, War on the Rocks, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The National Interest, and The Diplomat, among other publications. She has received fellowships from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, the National Science Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, Waseda University, and MIT’s Center for International Studies. Her research on the relationship between maritime power and international law received the Alexander George Award from the Foreign Policy Analysis Section of the International Studies Association. She has advanced proficiency in Mandarin and Spanish.