Richard Cronin

Distinguished Fellow

Southeast Asia

Richard P. Cronin is a Distinguished Fellow at Stimson. Until July 2016 Cronin directed Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program and Mekong Policy Project. Cronin joined Stimson in 2005 after a long career as an Asia Specialist with the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. At Stimson, he works on transboundary and nontraditional security issues in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea from a political economy perspective.

Among numerous publications he is the author of “Hydropower Dams on the Mekong: Old Dreams, New Dangers,” (Asia Policy, July 2013)  and the lead co-author of numerous Stimson reports, issue briefs, and presentations, including Mekong Tipping Point (2010), “After Xayaburi and Don Sahong: Time for a New Narrative on Mekong Hydropower,” (March 2015), a series of four first-hand “Letters from the Mekong” issue briefs, ” After Xayaburi and Don Sahong: Time for a New Narrative on Mekong Hydropower” (Oct 2016). He is a co-author of a Stimson briefing, ” A Call for Strategic, Basin-wide Energy Planning in Laos (Jan 2017).

Cronin has testified at US Congressional hearings on Mekong hydropower issues and the South China Sea. Senior US officials have credited Cronin and Stimson with awakening the US Government to the growing threat to peace and stability in the Lower Mekong because of dam development on the Mekong’s mainstream. He has been a non-official member of US delegations to several regional meetings of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) and the Friends of the Lower Mekong donor group.

Cronin earned a B.S. in economics and history, and an M.A. in European history from the University of Houston. He holds a Ph.D. in modern South Asian history from Syracuse University. He served in Vietnam (1st Lt) with the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division in 1965-66.

Projects

Addressing the regional environmental and social impacts along the Mekong River to improve food security, stability and cross-country relations.

We act to conserve the mighty Mekong’s ecosystem through system-scale planning methods and promoting the renewable energy revolution in mainland Southeast Asia.

Research & Writing
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Policy Memo
U.S.-China Trade Conflict: Opportunities for U.S. Economic and Security Interests in Developing Southeast Asia

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of 2020 Presidential Inbox — an ongoing Stimson Center series examining the major global challenges and opportunities the next administration faces. You might also be interested in Managing the Fallout of the U.S.-C…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin Quoted on Trump’s Visit to Asia

  Read the article here. 

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin Quoted in Voice of America on China’s Approval of Indian Tsunami Warning System in South China Sea

China is responding to pressure to work with other countries that claim rights to a vast disputed sea by voicing support for India’s proposed tsunami alert system. -snip- But when Vietnam and India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. agreed to expl…

Richard Cronin’s Questions on Unfilled National Security Appointments and US Alliance Structure in East Asia

Richard Cronin, Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center, asked questions about unfilled foreign policy positions in the Trump administration and U.S. alliance structure in East Asia at an International Institute for Strategic Studies event. He recei…

Commentary
Briefing: A Call for Strategic, Basin-wide Energy Planning in Laos

By Brian Eyler, Courtney Weatherby, and Richard Cronin The Stimson Center’s “Letters from the Mekong” series challenges the assumption that the current rapid pace of dam construction on the Mekong River will continue until the entire river is turned in…

Commentary
A Call for Basin-Wide Energy Plans

By Brian Eyler, Courtney Weatherby, and Richard Cronin: Preparatory work for the next big dam on the Mekong – Pak Beng – in northern Laos has begun. This news supports the widespread narrative that the current rapid pace of dam construction on the…

Stimson in the News
Brian Eyler, Courtney Weatherby, and Richard Cronin op-ed in Bangkok Post on the call for Mekong basin-wide energy plans

Preparatory work for the next big dam on the Mekong — Pak Beng — in northern Laos has begun. This news supports the widespread narrative that the current rapid pace of dam construction on the Mekong River will continue until the entire river is…

Report
Letters from the Mekong: A Call for Strategic Basin-Wide Energy Planning in Laos

This issue brief—the third in Stimson’s “Letters from the Mekong” series — continues to challenge the prevailing narrative that the current rapid pace of dam construction on the Mekong River in mainland Southeast Asia will continue until the…

Stimson in the News
Rich Cronin, Brian Eyler and Courtney Weatherby quoted in Voice of America on Hydropower Dams and the Future of the Mekong River

From the snowy plateaus of Tibet to the mountain gorges of China’s Yunnan province and beyond to the jungled borders of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and down to the plains of Cambodia and paddy fields of Vietnam – the Mekong River is of crucial importance t…

Stimson in the News
Rich Cronin, Brian Eyler and Courtney Weatherby quoted in Radio Free Asia on the Future of the Mekong

Millions of people living along the Mekong River face a possibly irreversible depletion of key food supplies resulting from dam building and other diversions of its waters. -snip- “China’s construction of hydropower projects on the upper Mekong River…h…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in 112 Seo on Mekong Delta

专家认为,超强的厄尔尼诺现象(El Nino)、气候变化和沿河兴建的水坝(这最让人担忧),是造成此次灾难的原因。 全长约4350公里的湄公河,为居住在其盆地附近的约6000万人提供生计。越南出口的白米,90%来自湄公河三角洲。此外,湄公河盆地下端渔业的经济价值,每年估计是170亿美元。 更重要的是,湄公河干旱的影响远超湄公河次区域。 美国“史汀生中心”(Stimson Centre)东南亚项目主任克罗宁(Richard Cronin)指出:“一旦泰国和越南生产的白米不足,印度尼西亚和菲律宾人就得挨饿…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in The Jakarta Post on Mekong Delta

The recent diplomatic spat between Indonesia and Singapore over the city-state’s effort to prosecute an Indonesian businessman for his alleged involvement in the haze last year was a frank reminder of the devastating impact man-made disasters can have…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin and Brian Eyler cited in Talk Vietnam on Climate Change and Water Management in Mekong Delta

How climate change and water management are becoming issues of national security in Vietnam and solutions for the country were the topic at a panel discussion held by the Stimson Center in Washington DC in late May. Attending the event were R…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in Farm Journal on Drought in Southeast Asia

-snip- Northeast Thailand is in very bad shape,” said Richard Cronin, director of the Southeast Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. “It’s politically sensitive (as well with) the countryside versus Bangkok.” Read more here.

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in Nhịp Cầu Đầu Tư on the Mekong River

Mực nước của dòng Mekong cũng đang chịu áp lực do hạn hán, chủ yếu do hiện tượng El Nino gây ra. Bên cạnh đó, ông Richard Cronin còn cho biết, Trung Quốc vừa hoàn tất việc xây dựng 6 trong số 7 đập nước trên dòng Mekong tại tỉnh Vân Nam nước này. Việt…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in Xinmin Evening News on Food Security

  美國華盛頓智庫史汀生中心(Stimson Center)東南亞計劃主任克魯寧説:“如果泰國和越南無法生産足夠的大米,那印尼和菲律賓的人民就得挨餓,這就是湄公河三角洲因發展和氣候變化所能帶來的長期影響。” Read more here.

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in Bloomberg on Climate Change in Mekong

-snip- “People in Indonesia and the Philippines will go hungry if the Thais and Vietnamese don’t produce enough rice,” said Richard Cronin, director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center in Washington. “This is a preview of the…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in Vietnam Express on dam constructions in the Mekong River

Tình trạng hạn hán và xâm nhập mặn ở đồng bằng sông Cửu Long và các nước thuộc hạ nguồn sông Mekong đang làm dấy lên những câu hỏi đến vấn đề thay đổi khí hậu và tác động của các đập thủy điện trên dòng sông Mekong. Bên cạnh đó là những lo ngại về hiệu…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in Nong nghiep Viet Nam

-snip- Nếu Trung Quốc vì lý do nào đó không xả đủ nước trong mùa khô, hầu hết các đập ở hạ du sẽ rất khó khăn trong việc phát điện và vô tình trở thành “con tin” của người Trung Quốc, theo Richard Cronin, nhà nghiên cứu thuộc viện Stimson Center ở Wash…

Commentary
Southeast Asia’s Murky Future Clouds Obama’s Sunnylands Summit

By Richard Cronin: On Monday and Tuesday, February 15-16, President Obama will host eight leaders and two senior alternates from the ten-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at Sunnylands, the former estate of Walter and Leonore Annen…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin and Brian Eyler quoted in The Economist on The Mekong River

-snip- The Wunonglong dam will inundate Yanmen, a nearby village whose residents will be resettled on Cizhong’s rice paddies. And this means that, in a way, Cizhong, too, will vanish. Brian Eyler, deputy director of the South-East Asia programme at the…

Stimson in the News
Rich Cronin Quoted In Asian Correspondent On Thailand’s First Transboundary Case

WHAT binds Mrs. Sorn Champadoka, a fisherwoman in northern Thailand who fears that the first dam on the lower mainstream of the mighty Mekong river will alter the river ecosystem leading to fish losses and devastate her livelihood and way of life; Saul…

Stimson in the News
The New Mekong: Changes And Expectations

On Thursday, October 29, 2015, stakeholders and experts on hydropower development and water resources in the Lower Mekong River Basin participated in a panel discussion entitled “The New Mekong: Changes and Expectations” in Ha Noi. Panelists included M…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in VOV.vn on US-Vietnam relations (Vietnamese)

Như VOV đã thông tin, trong chuyến thăm chính thức Hoa Kỳ, Tổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng đã có cuộc nói chuyện tại Trung tâm Nghiên cứu chiến lược và quốc tế Hoa Kỳ (CSIS) ở thủ đô Washington. Trước nhiều học giả và nhà ngoại giao hàng đầu của Hoa Kỳ ch…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in Vietnam Plus Chinese on Vietnamese economic progress (Chinese)

越通社特派记者报道,访问美国期间,越南时间7月9日上午,越共中央总书记阮富仲探访了总部设在美国首都华盛顿的国际战略研究中心(CSIS)并同该中心专家学者交流。 -snip- 阮富仲总书记在回答美国史汀生中心(Stimson Center)东南亚项目主任克罗宁(Richard Cronin)有关越共十二大焦点讨论的问题的提问时强调,越南将经济发展视为国家的核心任务,越南将继续加快推进经济结构调整和革新经济增长模式,保障人民,特别是弱势群体的生活以及继续更高层次融入世界经济。在政治方面,越南继续把精力放…

Commentary
60 Million Depending on the Mekong, Dams Threaten Livelihoods

Senior Associate Richard Cronin discuses Stimson’s work in the Lower Mekong Basin in Southeast Asia. There are highly contested plans over the construction of up to eleven hydropower dams on the lower half of Mekong River. These dams threaten the food…

Stimson in the News
R. Cronin & C. Weatherby’s report on Southeast Asia refugee boat crisis cited in Eurasia Review

In the second half of May 2015, a refugee boat crisis unfolded in the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia, almost in parallel with the refugee boat crisis in the Mediterranean. Together, both crises highlight security and humanitarian implications for the gr…

Commentary
International Pressure Could Still Turn the Tide on Mekong Dams

Last year, Laos announced it would go ahead with the second of two massive, controversial dams on the Lower Mekong River, over the strong objections of its downstream neighbors, Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite the contentious decisions to build the Xayab…

Commentary
Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program: Sustained And Evolving Efforts

When Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) was created in July 2005, the Association of Southeast Asia (ASEAN) and Southeast Asia had already undergone several major geopolitical and financial-economic changes since its founding in 1967. The fall of…

Stimson in the News
Richard Cronin quoted in The Daily New Nation on U.S. Opposing to the AIIB

The US has expressed reservations about the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but some experts say opposing the newly established bank may not a wise choice for Washington.China and 20 other countries launched the AIIB on Oct. 24. -…

Commentary
River at Risk, Lower Mekong Basin conference concludes

More than three dozen internationally respected scientists, development experts, civil society advocates and current and former officials concluded two and a half days of discussions last Saturday aimed at finding solutions to competing and mutually ex…

Commentary
Mekong Basin “Tipping Point” Opens Discussion

On August 28 through 31, leaders from government, civil society and the private sector will meet to discuss how new hydropower developments on the Mekong River potentially threaten the food security and wellbeing of millions. The convening to be held i…

Commentary
Mekong Basin “tipping point” opens discussion

Leaders from government, civil society and the private sector met for four days of discussions over new hydropower developments on the Mekong River that potentially threaten the food security and wellbeing of millions. The convening held in Chiang Rai,…

Commentary
Sea Of Absurdity: Sansha, China’s New Island “City”

By Richard Cronin and Zach Dubel  Conflicting maritime boundary claims in the South China Sea are serious business involving potentially North Sea-scale offshore oil and gas deposits; fisheries that are increasingly coveted because of rising seafo…

Commentary
Dr. Richard Cronin joins Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Eminent and Expert Persons Group (EEPG)

On August 9, 2014, Secretary John Kerry and the Foreign Ministers of the Lower Mekong partner countries launched the LMI Eminent and Expert Persons Group at the LMI Ministerial Meeting. Director of the Southeast Asia Program at Stimson, Dr. Richard Cro…

Commentary
Stimson Senior Associate Richard Cronin discusses Thailand coup

The Stimson Center’s Senior Associate on Southeast Asia, Richard Cronin, discusses the recent Thai coup and the impact on the region. Cronin also touches on the common forces present in Thailand and other parts of the Southeast Asia region. The declara…

Commentary
The MH370 Tragedy and Issues of Capacity and Governance in Emerging Middle Powers

The government of Malaysia continues to face a storm of criticism over its handling of the tragic and still mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Stunned by the lack of any solid explanation for how an aircraft equipped with state-…

Commentary
Obama Faces Serious Challenges In ‘Pivot’ To Asia

One of the many foreign policy challenges that U.S. President Barack Obama now faces is the need to show nations in Asia that his much-heralded “pivot” to focus greater U.S. attention on them is a real policy and not just rhetoric. Obama suffered a set…

Issue Brief
Hydropower Dams on the Mekong: Old Dreams, New Dangers

Today, the Mekong River Basin is on the edge of a two-pronged calamity as a result of both the long-term and near-term actions of humans and governments. Of the two, short-term actions such as deforestation, the unsustainable consumption of groundwater…

Stimson in the News
Hydropower Dams on the Mekong: Old Dreams, New Dangers

In his Asia Policy article “Hydropower Dams on the Mekong: Old Dreams, New Dangers,” Stimson Southeast Asia Program Director Richard Cronin discusses dams and cooperative water development in the lower Mekong and the Obama administration’s Lo…

Commentary
China’s Assertiveness Threatens Peace in South China Sea

Territorial disputes are threatening to spark deadly clashes that could have worldwide repercussions between China and some or all of its neighbors in the South China Sea – Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. China has deployed a…

Commentary
Letter From The Mekong: Examining Hydropower Dams

NOTE: Stimson Senior Associate Rich Cronin and Research Associate Zach Dubel recently returned from a trip to Laos and Thailand to examine the status and future of hydropower dams on the Lower Mekong Basin, along with the impact of the dams on regional…

Stimson in the News
Richard P. Cronin’s op-ed on China’s assertiveness in the South Sea featured on Investors.com

Richard P. Cronin’s op-ed on dealing with territorial disputes in the South Sea was featured on Investors.com.  To read the full op-ed, click here.

Policy Paper
Maritime Security in East Asia: Boundary Disputes, Resources, and the Future of Regional Stability

Maritime territorial disputes increasingly threaten the peace and stability of East Asia. Currently three areas of maritime East Asia involve the most consequential disputes: in the South China Sea between China (and Taiwan in this case) and four of it…

Testimony
Richard Cronin testifies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Richard Cronin, Senior Associate and Director of Stimson’s Southeast Asia program, was invited to testify before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday, September 12th, for their hearing on Beijing as an Emerging Power in the South China Sea….

Op-Ed
China and the Geopolitics of the Mekong River Basin: Part II

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on China’s geopolitical interests in the Mekong River Basin. Part I examined the politics and impact of hydroelectric projects on the Mekong River Basin. Part II examines the security cha…

Commentary
China and the Geopolitics of the Mekong River Basin: Part I

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on China’s geopolitical interests in the Mekong River Basin. Part I examines the politics and impact of hydroelectric projects on the Mekong River Basin. Part II will examine the security…

Commentary
Laos’ Xayaburi Dam Decision Requires a “Mekong Standard”

The Economic Ministers from the four member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) – Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam – are meeting this week in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a second attempt at resolving concerns about a large dam that Laos wa…

Commentary
China’s Claims In The South China Sea

By Richard Cronin – Incidents at sea in mid-2011 involving Chinese maritime patrol vessels and geological survey ships deployed by Vietnam have sharply ratcheted up long-standing tensions over conflicting maritime territorial claims in the South China…

Commentary
The Environment and Development: Greater Mekong Subregion Dynamics Considered

In no part of the world are the tensions between the transboundary impacts of globalization and national borders, and between development and the environment, more evident than in the 795,000-square-kilometer basin drained by the Mekong River and its t…

Commentary
The North Korean Nuclear Threat and the US-Japan Security Alliance

“The North Korean Nuclear Threat and the US-Japan Security Alliance” (Fletcher Forum, Winter 2005) The problem of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has emerged as the driving force of Japan’s growing security consciousness and activism a…

Issue Brief
Abe Shinzo New Nationalism and the Future of Sino-Japanese Relations

To many observers the election of the “hawkish” 52-year old Abe Shinzo as Prime Minister by the National Diet on September 26, 2006 appeared to complete Japan’s transition from the “penitent” pacifism that defined its policy towards China during much o…

Testimony
Testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Hearing on Water and Security in Southeast Asia

Statement of Richard P. Cronin Director, Southeast Asia Program Stimson Center, Washington, DC   Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Hearing on Challenges to Water and Security in Southeast Asia   September 23, 2010   Mr. Ch…

Report
Mekong Tipping Point

The October 1991 Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia closed the book on four decades of bitter conflict in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia.  The Accords created new opportunities for broad-based economic and social development based on reconstruct…

Testimony
China’s Activities In Southeast Asia And The Implications For U.S. Interests

Hearing statement February 4, 2010 Dr. Richard P. Cronin Senior Associate and Director, Southeast Asia Program The Stimson Center Washington, DC Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission “China’s Activities in Southeast As…

Report
Exploiting Natural Resources: Growth, Instability, and Conflict in the Middle East and Asia

Exploiting Natural Resources: Growth, Instability, and Conflict in the Middle East and Asia presents views on the unsustainable exploitation of three key natural resources – forests, water, and extractable minerals – from the Middle East, South an…

Report
China’s Falling Growth and US Hopes for Stabilizing the Global Economy: Mind the Gap

By Dr. Richard Cronin   The Challenge The accelerating meltdown of the global economic and financial system has caught the United States off guard. China, now the largest holder of US Treasury bonds, obviously plays an outsize role in the ability…

Commentary
China in the Eyes of its Neighbors: Notes from a trip to four lower Mekong countries and Japan

In a subregion defined by a 4,880 kilometer-long river system, worries about a too powerful China include both nontraditional and conventional security elements, but broader geopolitical considerations remain uppermost. For this reason, the perceived d…

Commentary
Destructive Mekong Dams: Critical Need for Transparency

The once war-ravaged Mekong River Basin is under new assault by the relentless forces of development and globalization, with energy-hungry China leading the charge. Also known as the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), the basin encompasses significant par…

Commentary
A New US-ASEAN Trade Tack

The Bush administration has belatedly woken up to growing Chinese economic influence in Southeast Asia, as its recent fitful and uncoordinated trade negotiations show. Luckily, there’s an existing trade tool — the Trade and Investment Framework Agreem…

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