Washington creating avoidable dilemma
In his speech for the National Day Rally on Sunday, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong touched upon the implications of the US-China tensions for the city state. Lee urged the United States to recognize that stopping China's rise is neither possible nor wise, and encouraged China to put itself in other countries' shoes and take into account their interests and views.
That this is the second time Lee has raised the same topic in three months－in his opening speech at the 2019 Shangri-La Dialogue on May 31, Lee also highlighted the difficulty of having to choose sides in the confrontation between the US and China－shows the acute dilemma countries such as Singapore face.
Both Beijing and Washington should heed Lee's words, since he has voiced the concerns of many countries as the trade war between the two giants intensifies. But it is Washington that has more to learn from Lee's message, because not only has it always held the initiative to continue or stop the trade frictions, since it single-handedly started them, but it is also the major agenda setter in global affairs, as well as being the most devastating saboteur of the international rules-based system.
China is not the source of problems. It is the source of growth and stability. And, sitting atop the pyramid, the US, which is the largest beneficiary of China's rise and economic globalization, should know that China's development will only continue to stoke its prosperity. Even if China's economic size neared that of the US, China's per capita income, the most viable indicator of a country's national strength, would only reach about one-quarter that of the US. Not to mention that China has no desire to become another US-style superpower, which is not in its cultural genes.
Given their close and productive connections both in times of peace and in times of war, the leaderships of the two sides should demonstrate more wisdom and flexibility, as Lee suggested, and strengthen mutual trust between the two governments, armies and peoples.
Their differences foster complementarities from which cooperation and opportunity thrive, so differences need to be respected, and should not be the cause of discords and confrontation.