Cold War approach against China won't work today

Chinese and US flags at a booth during an event in Shanghai.
Chinese and US flags at a booth during an event in Shanghai.PHOTO: AFP

The Shangri-La Dialogue is a highly esteemed forum that has been tremendously valuable in bringing the world's top brass to convene upon our small island state but I have to agree that it has assumed a somewhat sycophantic role for Washington (The US and its Shangri-La myths, June 22).

The participants, however, are given a voice and should not give up trying to signal to the United States the difference of China's nature from that of the US, and that of the Soviet Union.

It is evident that the US has projected its own image on China, and that in turn, has fed its own fear of China further, as seen in its labelling of the latter as a "revisionist power" and a "strategic US rival".

There are, of course, justifications for the US to view China as a competitor; China has gained from strength to strength economically, militarily, technologically, and even diplomatically.

Nonetheless, it is counterproductive for the US to view its game with China as one of zero sum. The US should look at engaging China in cooperative competition to produce a win-win outcome in common areas of concerns such as climate change, terrorism, drone use, militarisation of space, artificial intelligence, and nuclear proliferation.

In the past, even geopolitical adversaries like the United States and Russia have cooperated successfully in aerospace, for instance, the International Space Station programme.

Implementing a containment or isolation strategy upon China will not work; as it stands, the US is encountering challenges in getting even its flanking allies to rebuff Huawei's 5G technology.

The best thing for the US to do, as Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan sensibly advocated, is to double down and reap the rewards together (Sustaining US presence and China's peaceful rise; May 19). In other words, for the US to escape its own cage of insecurity, and strive instead to raise its own game and engage China without further flinching.

Getting others to takes sides during the Cold War might have worked then, but our world today has increased in great complexity and things no longer lie in a binary fashion.

It would serve everyone well to abolish the outmoded binary mindset because 20th-century international relations can't be navigated using 19th-century foreign policies.

Lily Ong