Asian Studies Minor by John B. D. Potter '11
Beginning in 2009, Hampden-Sydney began offering an academic minor in Asian Studies. To inaugurate this program, President Chris Howard and Professor Eric Dinmore, advisor for the minor, invited Dr. Michael Auslin to campus to discuss Asia' s role in the modern world. On October 26th, Dr. Auslin gave the first in a series of public lectures that the Asian Studies Program will hold in the coming months. His talk, entitled "American Strategy and the Asian Maritime Domain," was sponsored by the Asian Studies Program, the Lectures & Programs Committee, and the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest.
Dr. Auslin has taught as a professor of history at Yale and is currently the Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a prominent public policy think tank. He is an expert on the Asian maritime domain, a vast swath of sea which extends from Japan to India. In his lecture, Dr. Auslin spoke at length about the characteristics of the region. This area contains one half of the Earth's population and produces two-thirds of the world's consumer goods. Extraordinary changes-changes the respective nations' economies and changes in the area's security-are taking place in the region. These changes mean that Asia will affect our lives more and more, both directly and indirectly. As Dr. Auslin said in his presentation, "We live in a world that is increasingly determined by what's happening in Asia." The events unfolding there introduce new challenges not only to the region but to the United States and the world.
The nations that comprise the Asian maritime domain are all dependent on the sea for international trade and natural resources. Accordingly, competition among all of these countries is fierce, due in large part to immense economic expansion and population growth. To better secure their interests, countries in the region are spending billions of dollars to build up their militaries, especially China, India, and Japan. Growing naval power, combined with rapidly advancing technologies, means that Asian states are more willing and able to project their influence across the waters. This is evidenced in the frequent border disputes among nations of the Asian maritime domain. For instance, Japan, like many countries in the region, routinely sends warships to claim tiny rocky atolls hundreds of miles away from its coast. Not only that, but, as Dr. Auslin pointed out, "Japan has unsettled border disputes with all of its neighbors."
Dr. Auslin's talk made clear the fact that the challenges presented by the Asian maritime domain have no simple solutions. As countries like China increase their power, competition will skyrocket and the region will become more unstable. Even so, there is a growing sense of regional identity and community. Countries are starting to realize that they must work together to solve pressing issues such as environmental degradation, a problem which could cause massive migrations of people and wreak havoc on all of Asia. Coming changes in the Asian maritime domain will no doubt affect the political, social, and economic future of the world.