Rules changing in a new world order

Will the Thucydides Trap necessarily play out between a rising power and the incumbent, or is it just an old means to selfish ends (US and China can escape the Thucydides Trap; June 10)?

The United States and China may be dialectically opposite ideologically, but they share a common trait: Citizens of both countries seek to improve their lives through the American Dream and the Chinese Dream respectively.

Perhaps it is the breakneck pace of millions of Chinese being lifted out of poverty in a relatively short time that is disconcerting to some.

Would it be less disconcerting if it were another big nation rising? Would India face the same resistance when its time arrives? It calls for an overhaul of mindsets.

Ironically, it may be the stark differences between the US and China that ensure peace for the world, much like the well hailed "checks and balances" mechanism.

When two countries or peoples are too alike, they tend not to be at peace with each other. The world is replete with such examples.

As a small nation state, Singapore is a price taker in international affairs. Within the ambit of established international rules and norms, we have to maximise the space to ensure survival. We may bend but not break. We have thrived under a "rules-based" world order.

But what if the rules are changing? How we navigate this new uncharted landscape is a challenge, not just for us but for all countries.

But a seasoned rule will never change. All countries - big or small - are principled to serve their own interests.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Rules changing in a new world order'. Print Edition | Subscribe