Good US-China ties vital in achieving Asian Century

There is a general belief that the 21st century is an Asian Century.

The Asian Development Bank's gross domestic product (GDP) projection could confirm this, as it showed that Asia's GDP would increase from US$17 trillion in 2010 to US$174 trillion (S$247 trillion) in 2050, or half of global GDP.

Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann described it as a "Sino-centric Asian Century" ("The most important bilateral relationship in the world? China-Japan"; Dec 6).

While a good China-Japan relationship is vital to the realisation of the Asian Century, we should not overlook the role the United States can play in Asia.

From a global perspective, a good China-US relationship could be even more important for achieving the Asian Century.

In the last century, two world wars were fought, after which the US emerged as the global leader, and it was termed the American Century.

The existing tensions and potential conflicts in Asia may indicate that the geopolitical setting here is probably as complicated as that in Europe prior to the two world wars.

Any major war fought in Asia will likely draw Russia, the US and other Western powers into the conflict.

At this time, there are no compelling factors for escalating the tensions or conflicts here. But we cannot assume the situation will remain this way.

Asia, led by China, Japan, India and the Asean community, should collectively set a common vision for what kind of Asian Century we want to achieve. Without a clear vision, major powers here would just seek nationalistic benefit or regional dominance.

Also, we should avoid a rising Asia being perceived as a threat to other regions.

In a highly globalised world, it is unrealistic to think that we can exclude the US or other Western powers from playing a part in the making of the Asian Century.

As competition for global resources and markets is an ongoing affair, the Western powers would not give up their presence in the region where half of the world's GDP would be produced.

Also, economies with greater differences in competitive advantages between them have greater potential for cross-border trade and investment if both sides have their doors open.

A dynamic China-US cooperation should be included as part of the vision we want to pursue.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2016, with the headline 'Good US-China ties vital in achieving Asian Century'. Print Edition | Subscribe