S'pore's 4G leaders will inherit world more dangerous and challenging than any time in the past: ESM Goh

ESM Goh Chok Tong said 4G leaders will inherit a bipolar world divided between the US and China. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Singapore's fourth-generation (4G) leaders must have a strong mandate from the electorate so that the country can be successful in a world that is becoming more geopolitically unstable and dangerous, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has said.

The 4G leaders, led by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, will inherit a bipolar world that is divided between the United States and China and where countries are forced to take sides, he said during a fireside chat at a UOB Private Bank forum on Friday (June 3).

This world, he said, would be more hostile and challenging for the next generation of leaders than it has been for previous leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In that light, the leaders must have the support of Singaporeans to avoid being caught in political games where foreign leaders do not take them seriously because they do not believe they will be in power over the long term, Mr Goh said.

As the growing rivalry between China and the US metastasises into "the main threat to global stability", the 4G leaders must have a mandate to govern based on what is best for Singapore.

Mr Goh, who was Singapore's prime minister from 1990 to 2004, said Russia's invasion of Ukraine has coloured further the US' view of China, which has not condemned the war and said its ties with Russia are "without limits".

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine, whatever the end results, has not so much changed the direction of underlying geopolitical forces but accelerated and exacerbated them."

Tensions were already high between the two superpowers, particularly with regard to Taiwan. "The US has warned China not to invade Taiwan and moved to strengthen its relations with Taiwan. A war over Taiwan, whether intended or unintended, cannot be ruled out," he said.

Should a war break out over Taiwan in the South China Sea, Mr Goh said China, despite having fewer nuclear weapons and lesser military might than the US, would win, as it has the upper hand where the South China Sea and Taiwan are concerned.

But should a war extend beyond Asia, the US would emerge victorious, he said. "The US has 5,500 nuclear weapons. China has 300. Who would win?"

He added: "Chinese military expenditure is only about one-third that of the US. China has not gone to war for decades. The US has gone to war with Afghanistan and Iraq... supporting Syria and Ukraine."

Mr Goh also said: "The US will not give up its dominant role to China. The US sees China as a long-term strategic threat and has forged alliances to contain China."

But China is not going to roll over and allow the US or anyone else to contain its rise. Both countries view each other as long-term existential threats, he added.

He said: "I look at the way the US is preparing to deepen its ties with Taiwan; I feel there will be no good outcome.

"There will be total security distrust - between the West and Russia, and between largely the US and its allies and China."

This, Mr Goh said, "is the world which Lawrence Wong and his 4G team will inherit".

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