KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong fears rising tensions between the US and China could undermine security and economic growth across Asia and called on both sides to pull back from confrontation.
Lee flagged his concerns in an article titled “The Endangered Asian Century” published in the US journal Foreign Affairs, which has a history of running watershed essays by policymakers involved international relations.
Fearing that smaller Asian countries could be forced to take sides if intransigence grows between the world’s two biggest economies, Lee called for cooperation between the US and China, even as tensions rise over the coronavirus pandemic, trade, the disputed South China Sea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
“The two powers must work out a modus vivendi that will be competitive in some areas without allowing rivalry to poison cooperation in others,” Lee implored.
China is the biggest trading partner for much of Asia and could soon overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy – raising concerns about a looming and potentially-debilitating arm-wrestle for supremacy in Asia.
“If Washington tries to contain China’s rise or Beijing seeks to build an exclusive sphere of influence in Asia – they will begin a course of confrontation that will last decades and put the long-heralded Asian century in jeopardy,” the Singapore leader wrote.
Noting that Singapore is the only country aside from China that is home to an ethnic-Chinese majority, Lee said that the US presence in Asia is welcome.
“Asia has prospered because Pax Americana, which has held since the end of World War II, provided a favorable strategic context,” Lee wrote.Show