Asia wants US, China to sort out strategic differences: Vivian Balakrishnan

Dr Balakrishnan said it was understandable that American voters would question the US' role, calling the move a rational political development to a change in the world, internally and at the global level.
Dr Balakrishnan said it was understandable that American voters would question the US' role, calling the move a rational political development to a change in the world, internally and at the global level.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Asia worries about China and America clashing in a hot war, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told the Aspen Security Forum yesterday.

The biggest challenges that humanity faces - pandemics and climate change, for instance - will be transnational. Thus dealing with them will require cooperation, multipolar leadership, and multilateral institutions and processes, he told the annual event for global leaders to discuss foreign policy and key security issues. It is held virtually this year.

Dr Balakrishnan said it was understandable that American voters would question the US' role, calling the move a rational political development to a change in the world, internally and at the global level.

"At the end of World War II... it made sense for the US to underwrite the liberal world order as we know it, which has been a formula for peace and prosperity especially for democratic South-east Asia."

The US' share of global gross domestic product (GDP) then was around 40 per cent. "The problem now is that after 1978, China opened up. In 1991, India opened up. And with the fall of the Soviet Union, even Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe came on line. All these actually are positive developments, but what it means is the US now constitutes maybe about 25 per cent of global GDP," Dr Balakrishnan said.

"It is an entirely legitimate question for the American voter to say, why should the United States have to pay in blood and treasure to underwrite this world order?

"The key point here is we're moving from a unipolar world into a multipolar world."

The minister added: "What all of us in Asia want is for America and China to sort out their strategic differences, find a modus vivendi to resolve these differences, and also to be able to collaborate on the multilateral global challenges that we face - and on that basis to continue to engage in Asia, because both America and China have huge equities in Asia."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2020, with the headline 'Asia wants US, China to sort out strategic differences: Vivian'. Print Edition | Subscribe