ST Global Forum: US, China have domestic issues to tackle on top of bilateral ties, says DPM Heng

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat hopes that both China and the US will be able to work together on common areas to provide global leadership.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat hopes that both China and the US will be able to work together on common areas to provide global leadership.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The storming of the Capitol building in the US demonstrated how deeply divided the nation is, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Jan 11).

But Congress' subsequent decision to formally recognise Mr Joe Biden as president showed the strength of American institutions, a belief in their Constitution, and a belief in doing the right thing, he added.

"There is strength in the American system, which augurs well for the US," Mr Heng said at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum.

He had been asked how recent events in the US, as well as mass arrests of opposition figures in Hong Kong, would impact any proposed reset of frosty US-China relations.

Mr Heng replied that both the US and China have significant domestic issues to grapple with.

For the US, President-elect Joe Biden and his team will have to work on implementing the right policies to bridge divides on issues such as economic opportunities, culture, and race.

And in China, the Hong Kong protests are just one challenge that the country's leadership is dealing with, he said.

The country is also tackling issues such as the disparity in development between major cities and the countryside, as well as a rapidly ageing population.

"The Chinese leadership will have to devote a significant amount of time and resources to deal with these challenges," Mr Heng said. "And so both sides, both the US and China, will have significant domestic issues that they will need to focus their minds on."

He added his hope that both economies - the largest in the world, with the most military spending - will be able to work together on common areas to provide global leadership.

These include topics such as public health, climate change and digital governance, Mr Heng said.

He added his hope that both parties can work together and provide global leadership in these and other areas, playing a constructive role to bring other countries together to deal with such pressing challenges.