In the United States, where a change in administration is accompanied by a massive influx of political appointees across all areas of government, it is said that “personnel is policy.” This begs the question: Who will craft American foreign and defense policy — and particularly Asia policy — within the new Biden administration?

President Joe Biden has appointed 44-year-old Jake Sullivan to the post of national security adviser, giving him the responsibility for developing the overarching principles and direction of policy, as well as coordinating policy across governmental agencies. Sullivan previously served as national security adviser to Vice President Biden during then-President Barack Obama’s second term in office, and established his reputation as a skilled negotiator by playing a key role in concluding the Iran nuclear deal. As U.S. policy responses to China faltered, Sullivan recognized the need to develop a truly realistic China policy.

On the White House National Security Council, Sullivan will be assisted with Asia policy by Kurt Campbell, who has been appointed to the newly-created position of Coordinator of Indo-Pacific Affairs. Campbell is regarded as one of the best U.S. strategists and has built up a dense network of contacts across Asia.