In September 2011 the U.S. bilateral alliance system in the Asia-Pacific—the “San Francisco System” (SFS)—turned 60 years old. Against the expectations of theorists who argue that alliances cannot be sustained in the absence of a commonly perceived mutual external threat, the SFS remains operative and viable. It remains so even as multilateral approaches to regional order-building in the Asia-Pacific have proliferated. Although the identity and functions of the SFS have evolved, the speakers will argue that it remains—and will remain—a critical security mechanism in the likely absence of a comprehensive and consensual regional security arrangement that could supersede it. Their remarks will convey the findings and projections of a recent study of Asia-Pacific security undertaken by Australian National University (ANU) and supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s Asia Security Initiative.
John Ravenhill returned to ANU in 2004, after holding the chair of politics at the University of Edinburgh from 2000. He currently directs the School of Political Science and International Relations at ANU’s College of Arts and Social Sciences. Before joining ANU in 1990, he was an associate professor at the University of Sydney, and assistant professor at the University of Virginia, after completing his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. He has held visiting professorships at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies; Nanyang Technology University, Singapore; the University of Geneva; the International University of Japan; and the University of California, Berkeley. His many articles have appeared in leading journals including World Politics, International Organization, Review of International Political Economy, Review of International Studies, New Political Economy, World Policy Journal, World Development, and International Affairs. His research interests include global political economy, especially the fields of trade and production, and Australian foreign policy.
William T. Tow came to ANU in early 2005, having been a professor of international relations (IR) at the University of Queensland and at Griffith University, and an assistant professor of IR at the University of Southern California. His visiting-scholar positions have included APARC (1999) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. Among his many writings are Politics in the Asia-Pacific: A Regional–Global Nexus? (edited, Cambridge University Press, 2009); Asia Pacific Strategic Relations: Seeking Convergent Security (Cambridge University Press, 2001); and articles in the China Journal, Review of International Studies, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, China Quarterly, International Affairs, Survival, and Asian Survey. He also heads the ANU IR component of the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, was editor of the Australian Journal of International Affairs, has held positions with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Fulbright Commission, and received an Australian Award for University Teaching in the Social Sciences Category.
Brendan Taylor’s writings include Sanctions as Grand Strategy (2010); American Sanctions in the Asia-Pacific (2010); and articles in Asian Security, the Australian Journal of International Affairs, International Affairs, and Survival. In addition to leading the ANU-MacArthur Asia Security Initiative Focus Group (since 2009), he has served as associate investigator, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security; graduate studies convenor, Political Science and International Relations, ANU; and lecturer and post-doctoral fellow, SDSC.
David Envall is a Japan specialist with an interest in how foreign policy is made. He edits the ANU-MacArthur Project’s policy papers. His essays will appear in the Asian Journal of Political Science and in volumes on Australian-Japanese politico-security relations and on strategic and structural changes in the Asia-Pacific security environment.