Kristi Govella, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Year of PhD: 2016

Country: United States (Hawaii)

About Me:

Dr. Kristi Govella (クリスティ・ゴヴェラ) is the inaugural Director of the Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs and an Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her work examines the intersection of economics and security in international relations, with a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific region and Japan. Dr. Govella’s research has examined topics such as economic statecraft, trade war, trade agreements, foreign investment, government-business relations, defense capacity building, regional institutional architecture, and the governance of the global commons. Her writing is published or forthcoming in World Trade Review, International Relations, Asian Survey, Monumenta Nipponica, Foreign Affairs, East Asia Forum, Fletcher Security ReviewIssues and Insights, Asia Dialogue, and The Washington Post. In addition, Kristi has edited two books: Linking Trade and Security: Evolving Institutions in Asia, Europe, and the United States and Responding to a Resurgent Russia: Russian Policy and Responses from the European Union and the United States. She also serves as an Adjunct Fellow at the East-West Center and Pacific Forum and as Editor of the journal Asia Policy. Dr. Govella was previously Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Asia Program at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, and an Associate Professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. She has also been a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Tokyo and Waseda University. She holds a Ph.D. and an M.A in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in Political Science and Japanese, Cum Laude with College Honors, from the University of Washington, Seattle. 

Research Interests

Asian Politics

Foreign Policy

Political Economy

Conflict Processes & War

Regional Integration

Asia Trade Institutions

Trade Agreements

Economics-Security Nexus

China-Japan Relations

International Political Economy

Countries of Interest



South Korea

North Korea


Journal Articles:

(2021) The Adaptation of Japanese Economic Statecraft: Trade, Aid, and Technology, World Trade Review

This article examines how Japan has adapted economic statecraft to serve changing strategic aims through case studies of trade arrangements, official development assistance, and dual-use technology. After World War II, Japan continuously adapted these economic tools to pursue shifting non-economic goals related to international reintegration, comprehensive security, human security, and traditional security. More recently, in response to escalating US–China strategic competition, Japan has employed economic statecraft to simultaneously reduce international instability and to counter China in targeted ways as part of a broader hedging approach. First, Japan has attempted to bolster multilateral trade arrangements amid a volatile policy environment, while also using them to both engage and counter China. Second, Japan has used official development assistance to stabilize and build defense capacity in Asian countries facing pressure from China. Third, Japan has increasingly militarized its dual-use technologies to enhance its ability to respond to Chinese activity in outer space.

(2021) China’s Challenge to the Global Commons: Compliance, Contestation, and Subversion in the Maritime and Cyber Domains, International Relations

It is often predicted that rising powers such as China will seek to reshape the international order as they gain influence. Drawing on comparative analysis of the maritime and cyber domains, this article argues that China poses a challenge to the global commons because its actions reflect a pragmatic focus on national interest that disrupts more collaborative conceptions of their governance. However, instead of directly rejecting existing regimes, China has pursued a mixed strategy of complying when these regimes confer benefits and employing contestation or subversion when they conflict with its strategic aims. In particular, China has used contestation and subversion to push for the enclosure of the maritime and cyber domains, extending ideas of sovereignty and territoriality to them to varying extents. While the relatively well-institutionalized nature of maritime governance has limited China’s focus to the application of specific rules in areas where it prioritizes sovereign control, the embryonic status of the cyber regime has enabled China to call into question the fundamental definition of cyberspace as a global common. Subversion has also allowed China to accomplish strategic goals through ‘gray zone’ tactics, resulting in increased conflict below the level of war in both domains.

(2019) Technology and Tensions in the Global Commons, Fletcher Security Review

This article examines how the rise of China and the relative decline of the United States have catalyzed greater engagement with three domains of the global commons—the high seas, outer space, and cyberspace—particularly among the countries in Asia that have found themselves most affected by this power transition. I argue that advances in and diffusion of technology have transformed the global commons into increasingly crowded domains characterized by interstate competition and heightened tensions. Whether these tensions prevail depends on the creation and strengthening of regimes to manage interactions and promote shared rules and norms.

(2008) Japan in 2007: A Divided Government, Asian Survey

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suffered a stunning defeat in the July 2007 upper house elections, creating an unprecedented situation in which the LDP-led coalition lost its majority in the upper house while retaining a two-thirds majority in the lower house. In this new environment of "divided government" Japanese style, the LDP and the opposition jockeyed for advantage in foreign and domestic policy debates while preparing for a critical confrontation in the next lower house election.

Books Written:

(2012) Linking Trade and Security: Evolving Institutions and Strategies in Asia, Europe, and the United States, Springer

Despite the tendency of some contemporary scholarship to deal with economics and security as separate spheres, the linkages between these two areas are vital in determining the nature of international politics. This edited volume addresses linkages between trade and security by examining the influence of security factors in driving trade policy measures and the corresponding implications of different types of trade arrangements for international security. Ultimately, the project shows that several elements—traditional economic factors, traditional security factors, and human security factors—can affect the development of trade agreements and unilateral policies, and that trade policies may have both a direct and an indirect effect on traditional and human security. The project focuses on Asia, a region where economics is increasingly important but many security issues still linger unresolved, as a primary setting to test trade linkage theories. It also provides a comparative perspective through examination of how the EU and US have used their trade policies to achieve non-economic goals and how these policies have influenced their security environment. Case studies in this project cover key trade institutions and agreements including the World Trade Organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN Plus Three, the East Asia Summit, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and bilateral preferential trade agreements.​

(2011) Responding to a Resurgent Russia: Russian Policy and Responses from the European Union and the United States, Springer

In this volume, a set of issue and country experts tackle the questions surrounding the challenges of a resurgent Russia for the world order as well as for relations between the European Union and the United States. My co-editor and I begin the volume with a brief introduction laying out the circumstances of Russia’s rise, after which the book proceeds in three sections. In the first, Russian scholars tackle the topic of how a newly resurgent Russia sees the world. The second section examines Russia’s role in the contemporary global political economy in terms of trade and financial flows and nuclear energy. The third section looks at American and European responses to Russia. In the conclusion, Aggarwal and I draw together the findings from each of the chapters and present some broad propositions regarding Russia’s rise and the challenges that it presents for the US, EU and the international order in the years to come. The implications of this collection are very broad and far-reaching, with ramifications for each of the players involved as well as for the development and refinement of general international relations theories concerning global conflict and cooperation, making the book relevant for both policy-makers and scholars of international relations, Russian studies, and international political economy.

Book Chapters:

(2022) Economic Rivals, Security Allies: The US-Japan Trade War, Edward Elgar

This chapter traces the evolution of the US-Japan trade war from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s as it expanded beyond imports and exports to include broader macroeconomic, structural, and technological issues. Based on this analysis, it argues that the likelihood of trade conflict escalation increased as the perceived gap in relative economic power between Japan and the US decreased, as shared security interests and support for free trade norms weakened, and when relevant dispute resolution mechanisms were narrow in scope. Conversely, when these factors shifted in the opposing directions, the likelihood of trade conflict escalation decreased. This chapter devotes particular attention to the role of trade-security linkages in the trade war. Shared security interests were strengthened by positive substantive linkages between trade and Cold War aims; however, interests diverged when negative substantive linkages emerged between Japanese products and US defense capabilities and when tactical linkages were used to force concessions.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2017) BBC World News

Interview about President Trump's visit to Asia, November 11, 2017.

Radio Appearances:

(2018) Marketplace

Marketplace (radio), “Pompeo travels to boost US interests in South Asia,” July 31, 2018, by Kimberly Adams.

Newspaper Quotes:

(2021) The Japan Times

“At the G7, can Biden unite the globe’s top democracies to take on China?” by Jesse Johnson, June 9, 2021.

(2021) TIME

“Biden Will Meet Japan’s Yoshihide Suga in His First In-Person Meeting With a Foreign Leader. Here’s What to Know,” by Amy Gunia, April 15, 2021.

(2020) BBC News

“Yoshihide Suga: The Unexpected Rise of Japan’s New Prime Minister,” by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, September 16, 2020.

(2020) The New York Times

“Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Longest-Serving Prime Minister, Resigns Because of Illness,” by Motoko Rich, August 28, 2020.

(2020) The New York Times

The New York Times, “As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Anti-Chinese Sentiment,” January 30, 2020, by Motoko Rich.

(2020) The New York Times

The New York Times, “Why Asia’s New Coronavirus Controls Should Worry the World,” March 31, 2020, by Motoko Rich.

(2019) The Japan Times

The Japan Times, “More in Japan see U.S. as ‘major threat,’ while cyberattacks and climate change top concerns, survey shows,” February 12, 2019, by Jesse Johnson.

(2019) The New York Times

The New York Times, “One Image of Japan’s Royals Tells a Story of Demographic Crisis,” May 1, 2019, by Motoko Rich, Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue

(2019) The New York Times

The New York Times, “Shinzo Abe Declares Victory in Japan Election but Without Mandate to Revise Constitution,” July 21, 2019, by Motoko Rich.

(2019) The New York Times

The New York Times,”North Korean Missile Delivers a Message: There’s Little Japan Can Do,” October 2, 2019, by Motoko Rich.

(2018) Financial Review

Financial Review, “Donald Trump’s Snap Decision to Meet With Kim Jong-un,” March 10, 2018, by Peter Baker and Choe Sang-hun.

(2018) The New York Times

The New York Times, “Trump’s Unpredictability on Trade and North Korea Opens a Door for China,” March 10, 2018, by Motoko Rich.

(2018) The New York Times

The New York Times, “As Scandal-Tarred Abe Meets Trump, ‘the Situation is Getting Dangerous’,” April 16, 2018, by Motoko Rich.

(2018) USA Today

USA Today, “Trump backs North-South Korea Peace Talks in Summit with Japan’s Leader at Mar-a-Lago,” April 17, 2018, by David Jackson.

(2018) Agencia EFE

Agencia EFE, “Trump descubre los límites de su apuesta diplomática con Corea del Norte,” May 26, 2018, by Lucia Leal.

(2018) NBC News

NBC News, “Japan’s scandal-plagued Shinzo Abe eyes his place in history books,” August 19, 2018, by Daniel Hurst.

(2018) The New York Times

The New York Times, “With a Submarine, Japan Sends a Message in the South China Sea,” September 18, 2018, by Motoko Rich and Makiko Inoue.

(2018) The Times of London

The Times of London, “How Shinzo Abe became Japan’s Supreme Political Survivor,” September 21, 2018, by Daniel Hurst.

(2018) The New York Times

Motoko Rich, "In Japan, a Liberal Maverick Is Seeking to Lead a Conservative Party," February 17, 2018.

(2018) The Diplomat

The Diplomat, “3 More Years of Abe: Japan’s Foreign Policy Future,” September 22, 2018, by Daniel Hurst.

(2018) The New York Times

The New York Times, “Shinzo Abe Says Japan Is China’s ‘Partner,’ and No Longer Its Aid Donor,” October 26, 2018, by Steven Lee Myers and Motoko Rich.

(2018) The Japan Times

The Japan Times, “With GOP’s loss of House, should Japan anticipate a more hard-line Trump?” November 7, 2018, by Tomohiro Osaki and Sakura Murakami.

(2018) South China Morning Post

South China Morning Post, “‘Last adult’ James Mattis leaves the room: what next for Asia?” December 21, 2018, by Meaghan Tobin.

(2017) The Washington Post

Anna Fifield and Adam Taylor, "As Japan buddies up to Trump, South Korea frets it’s being disrespected," November 3, 2017.

(2017) The New York Times

Motoko Rich and Jane Perlez, "Seeing U.S. in Retreat Under Trump, Japan and China Move to Mend Ties," November 6, 2017.

Blog Posts:

(2019) The Washington Post

“Trump’s trip to Japan reveals some mixed signals.” The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, May 29, 2019.

(2017) Asia Dialogue

“Japan’s Quest to Preserve the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Asia Dialogue, October 26, 2017.