Forum: Key events of the past decade offer perspective on US-China ties

I wish to provide an alternative view to the article by Professor Kishore Mahbubani (US-China ties: Kissinger may be humanity's last hope, Aug 11).

Prof Mahbubani quoted former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger as stating that the United States should stop its "endless confrontations" with China. He also implied that the visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have brought us to the brink of World War III.

To validate these statements, we need to review some of the key events of the past decade.

China's growth during the past 40 years would not have been possible without Western support and the World Trade Organisation rules initiated in the early 1990s to benefit less developed countries.

Having established itself as the No. 2 economy, China attempted to capitalise on Western differences, weaknesses of the democratic system, the perceived decline of the US and related naivety - including the idealist view that China could be made more democratic - to continue to grow and challenge the international system, rather than working from within to improve the system.

Over the past 10 years, China, led by an ambitious President Xi Jinping, adopted aggressive military and diplomacy policies which include "wolf warrior" tactics, bullying of weaker neighbours and information operations in other countries to sway opinions.

Many people in Asia and around the world do not trust China. A survey by the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute published in February found that 58 per cent of South-east Asians did not have confidence in China to do the right thing in the wider interests of the global community. The survey found that 53 per cent had confidence in the US to do the right thing.

And a Pew Research Centre survey released in June found that a median of 68 per cent across 19 countries had an unfavourable view of China, whereas a majority in most countries had a favourable view of the US.

On Mrs Pelosi's recent visit to Taiwan, I would suggest that China has overreacted.

This is not the first time a House speaker had visited the island. However, China had to react in this way, given that it is facing many internal challenges and Mr Xi needs to galvanise nationalist sentiments to gain support for his re-election to a third term as leader of the party.

We must not ignore China's behaviour. At this point, we must make it clear that while it may be acceptable to many of us for China to be the No. 1 economy or military power, the issue is the approach it has taken to achieve this aim.

Its recent behaviour and actions do not give assurance that it will be a benign power, but rather, that it may continue to bully its neighbours and selectively bulldoze through international norms and rules to achieve its objectives.

Vijayakumar P.T.

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