Take the gracious route, US

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington, on May 16, 2019.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington, on May 16, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

It is truly courageous of Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan to take the lead in urging the United States to allow China a greater voice in shaping global rules so as to avert an extended conflict that compels smaller countries to choose between the world's major powers (Vivian: Political off-ramps needed to ease trade tensions, May 17).

It is not hard to see that the US is anxiously trying to preserve the status quo and its pre-eminence, while China is eagerly striving to have its new status recognised.

However, the spasmodic wars in the Middle East have clearly drained the US, and China's resources, while colossal, are not boundless.

Dr Balakrishnan astutely pointed out that China is the main beneficiary of the US-led growth, and will thus see very little benefit in dismantling the established order altogether.

Although there is no lack of uncertainty over how an emerging multipolarity may unfold (The uncertain road to a multipolar Asia, May 1), Singapore and Asean should welcome the phenomenon as it will offer us some manoeuvring room and provide us with openings to capitalise on ancillary opportunities.

China and the US must not allow their trade spat to colour their entire relationship. After all, trade is but a mere tool of strategic competition.

At the end of the day, despite the differences in values, everyone shares the same concerns over the critical issues of climate change, terrorism and nuclear proliferation, to name a few.

Rather than resisting the shift to multipolarity and clinging on to the status quo in futility, the US should really consider taking the gracious route, and responsibly lead our world towards a new equilibrium, where balanced and durable solutions to global problems can be jointly sought and effectively achieved.

Lily Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Take the gracious route, US'. Print Edition | Subscribe