Vivian Balakrishnan: US should allow China to have greater global say

Vivian emphasised that competition between the two countries was not a zero-sum game.

Matthias Ang | May 17, 10:12 am


The United States should allow China to have a greater say in the global order, so as to avoid a prolonged clash that could result in smaller countries being forced to choose between the world’s two largest economies.

This was expressed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on May 15, both Bloomberg and The Straits Times reported.

Vivian explained that it will not work to see China purely as an adversary due to the range of issues that require cooperation between both countries.

Rather, both countries should engage in “constructive competition” as a world that splits into rival blocs will jeopardise the progress that has been made under the U.S.-led world order for the past 70 years.

Singapore wants China to assume “rightful place” as superpower

Vivian pointed out that countries like Singapore would be caught in the middle due to its small size and reliance on trade, Bloomberg reported.

Vivian said: “For us in the middle, especially for small countries, we do not wish to be forced into making invidious choices.”

He highlighted that the U.S. had been seen as a “benign hegemon” in the region and that the region had also benefited.

As such, Singapore’s position is for both the U.S. and China to take their respective places in the global order.

Vivian said: “Singapore wants both a sustained U.S. presence, which we believe is positive, and we also want China to be able to assume its rightful place as it develops and becomes a superpower in its own right.”

Understandable for China to question and rewrite global rules

As for China’s role in the world, Vivian said China was unlikely to undermine the U.S.-led global system, given that it had been one of the system’s largest beneficiaries.

However, it was also “an entirely legitimate expectation on the part of China” about having the right to shape changing norms, processes and institutions, since it did not have such a say when they were first established decades ago, Vivian added.

Moreover, equally legitimate was the U.S. coming to question the benefits of the system.

As such, competition between the two countries should not be a zero sum game.

Rather, it should take place within the norms of the established system, with an adherence to international law, Vivian said.

Leaving issues unresolved between both countries is dangerous for the global economy

Vivian warned that should the issues between the U.S. and China remain unresolved, a highly undesirable outcome would be the bifurcation of the global economy.

Such an event would be “bloody”, Vivian said: “It’s like trying to separate Siamese twins, a very dangerous and bloody process, I hope we don’t get to that stage.”

In the meantime, however, the short-term effects currently mean volatility in the stock markets, although this could escalate to a decrease in economic growth, and eventually, more severe concerns on an existential scale.

What is Vivian doing in the U.S.?

According to ST, Vivian is in Washington DC, U.S, on a working visit for four days.

He is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton.

He is also scheduled to meet key members of Congress, and host a reception for members of the Congressional Singapore Caucus.

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Top image from Vivian Balakrishnan Facebook

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