Pretty wise words from Singapore’s leaders at this year’s APEC forum hosted in Singapore. There really isn’t a need to take sides, though it might be pure lip service to prevent offending either power. We shall see.
Quotable Quotes – “MM Lee noted that the US had left East Asia ‘fallow’ over the last eight years, preoccupied with its own wars and not concluding free trade agreements with any country except Singapore…”
Ties with US, China not zero-sum game: PM Lee
By Sue-Ann Chia
The Straits Times
Source – Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nov 14, 2009
DESPITE rivalry between China and the United States, relating with the two is not a zero-sum game and Singapore does not want to have to choose one over the other.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the point yesterday in an interview with the BBC as host of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum.
‘All countries want to be friends with China, and all countries would also like simultaneously to be friends with America. We don’t want to have to choose sides,’ he said, in reply to a question on the developing rivalry between the two giants.
Asked how Singapore decides on its friends, he said: ‘It’s a matter of economics, but beyond economics, also security and political stability.’
Singapore, he said, hoped for a region where competition among countries is peaceful and constructive, rather than tumultuous and leading to wider instability.
Noting that China has been active in South-east Asia ‘cultivating countries and making friends’, he said the region also wants good relations with China and to benefit from China’s growing market.
As for the US, while it has ‘interests and friends all over Asia’, it also has ‘many pressing preoccupations elsewhere’, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Because of these, the ’tilling of the ground’ and cultivation of relationships with South-east Asia has not been given as much attention ‘as we would have preferred’, he said.
Lately however, under President Barack Obama, the US appears to be focusing again on Asia, he said, adding: ‘I think that is what Hillary Clinton meant when she said that they are now back.’
Mrs Clinton made the remark during her visit to Bangkok in July, her second trip to Asia as US Secretary of State.
The topic of China-US rivalry also cropped up when Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew addressed the Apec CEO Summit yesterday.
Asked to comment on whether the US was a declining power in Asia, MM Lee noted that the US had left East Asia ‘fallow’ over the last eight years, preoccupied with its own wars and not concluding free trade agreements with any country except Singapore.
He sounded a warning against US protectionism, saying that if its anti-trade and anti-outsourcing stance continues, its economic interests in the Pacific region would decline.
‘The Chinese are hungry; they will go anywhere with economic potential. No worries about expat allowances and American schools. In eight years, assuming President Obama gets another term, and assuming that Congress does not get out of its protectionist mode, then I see huge problems ahead for America’s economic standing,’ he said.
Additional reporting by Rachel Chang