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Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia

Michael Kovrig

Michael Kovrig has been Crisis Group's North East Asia Adviser since 2017. The Chinese authorities detained Michael on 10 December 2018 in Beijing and unjustly held him for 1,019 days. Crisis Group welcomed his release on 24 September 2021 and we thank all those who worked so tirelessly for his homecoming, including heads of state, governments, his family, colleagues and friends. 

Michael conducts research and provided analysis on foreign affairs and global security issues in North East Asia, particularly on China, Japan and the Korean peninsula. Crisis Group’s work aims to defuse any tensions between China and nearby states, and to give a fresh, independent appraisal of China’s growing role in the world.

Our focus is on Chinese foreign policy and understanding its regional and global role. All of our research is publicly available on our China website page.

Michael contributes to our research on conflict prevention on the Korean peninsula, with a focus on Chinese ideas for de-escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. He has also contributed to our analysis of the conflict in South Sudan and the role played by China in mediation there. 

Professional background

Michael Kovrig previously worked for more than a decade as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing, Hong Kong and at the UN in New York. Altogether he has worked in twenty countries, including four years with the UN Development Program in New York and in Kabul, Afghanistan. He also served as a China analyst at Rhodium Group.

A Mandarin Chinese speaker, Michael has a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University.

Areas of Expertise

  • China
  • South China Sea
  • North East Asia Security
  • United Nations
  • Global Governance
  • Multilateral Diplomacy

Languages

  • English
  • French
  • Mandarin Chinese

In The News

23 Oct 2018
U.S.-China relations have deteriorated to their worst point since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in Beijing. Miami Herald

Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia
2 Jul 2018
[Pyongyang is] trying to encourage China to lobby for the sanctions to be lifted and to provide financial help, trade and investment. China’s long-standing policy has been to encourage engagement and try to change North Korean behaviour through trade and development. So as long as North Korea refrains from provocations, we can expect this dialogue to continue. South China Morning Post

Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia
13 Jun 2018
I think Kim wanted to win the hearts [of people] and draw some sympathy for himself and his regime, as part of an effort to weaken resolve to maintain sanctions and pressure. South China Morning Post

Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia
25 May 2018
Kim is already trying to move closer to China, and further uncertainty about the U.S. will likely make him more willing to offer concessions to Beijing. If Kim refrains from further testing and demonstrates good behaviour, while blaming the U.S. for being unreasonable, he could encourage China, South Korea and Russia to lobby for loosening of sanctions, either formally, or through less rigorous implementation and enforcement. South China Morning Post

Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia
26 Feb 2018
[China's leader Xi Jinping could build on a centralised party-state system]. Whether that is good for the world depends on whether [he] makes the right decisions. South China Morning Post

Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia
23 Jan 2018
A deal whereby Pyongyang freezes its most sensitive tests and Washington freezes some military exercises could help de-escalate the crisis and buy time for diplomacy. South China Morning Post

Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia

Latest Updates

Commentary / Asia

China Expands Its Peace and Security Footprint in Africa

At the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and China-Africa Defence and Security Forum, Beijing showcased an increasingly strategic approach to its defence relations with African countries and its role in managing challenges to peace and security on the continent.

Also available in 简体中文
Op-Ed / Asia

National Ambitions Meet Local Opposition Along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Pakistan’s central government is all-in on CPEC. But at key points, local communities are resisting.

Originally published in The Diplomat

Commentary / Asia

Trilateral North East Asia Summit Signals a Return to Cooperation

Facing uncertain times in U.S. policy and a pivot to diplomacy from North Korea, leaders of China, Japan and South Korea met in Tokyo on 9 May to downplay historical grievances and show their support for denuclearisation, trade and better relations. But underlying disputes could still resurface.

Also available in 简体中文
Op-Ed / Asia

How A Long-awaited Hotline Could Pave the Way For Calmer China-Japan Relations

Japan and China should use a new maritime and aerial communication mechanism to manage disputes with professionalism, dialogue and diplomacy.

Originally published in South China Morning Post

Also available in 简体中文
Op-Ed / Asia

Why China Should Help Solve Venezuela’s Deepening Crisis

Originally published in Asia Times

Also available in 简体中文