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Too simplistic to rely on past to predict future

Former Straits Times editor Leslie Fong may wish to heed his own advice of thinking out of the box of entrenched mindsets (Who else but China can rein in Uncle Sam?; April 22).

It is too simplistic to rely on historicism to explain current and future geostrategic trends, including the behaviour of big powers.

Take China, for example.

It is a civilisation with a long history. But can its imperial past be a reliable gauge of a fast-evolving country's foreign relations in a vastly different world?

Even over the last 70 years, under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, there have been discernible differences in the country's foreign policy actions.

Diplomats do not have the luxury of speculating whether a certain power has the makings of a hegemon.

They have to make the necessary assessments and adjustments according to what they see in action on the ground to protect the interests of their respective peoples and countries.

This should preferably be done according to a multilateral rules-based world order. But if push comes to shove, then by any other means necessary.

In a more interdependent and interconnected world of free and fair competition between many like-minded sovereign member states, the idea that a rising power like China is best placed to counter the might of the Americans is a foolish one.

Human civilisation is far more than the small-minded bipolar interests of big-power rivalry. There is no need for independent nation states to fall for a Thucydides Trap and/or a revanchist race to the bottom.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 29, 2018, with the headline 'Too simplistic to rely on past to predict future'. Print Edition | Subscribe