U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have laid the stage for "both competition and cooperation", whilst hopefully "avoiding conflict", Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Sunday, Sep. 26.
U.S.-China relations an issue that Singapore's concerned with
Speaking at a media doorstop after delivering Singapore's national statement at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, held in New York, the minister noted that both countries gave "very careful speeches".
In his speech, Biden said all major powers of the world have a duty to manage their relationships so "they do not tip from responsible competition to conflict". On the other hand, Xi had said that "one country's success does not have to mean another country's failure".
Nevertheless, Vivian pointed out that the world is still in "very early stages of this strategic rebalancing" and readjustment of the relationship.
"You cannot assume that things will always be smooth sailing and nothing can go wrong, or you can actually end up with a de facto cold war or even sometimes a hotspot," he added.
He further said that the relationship between these two major powers is an issue that all countries are aware of and concerned with, including Singapore and other small nations.
"If there is real trouble between the two superpowers, we're all going to be affected severely," he said, adding that Singapore has reiterated its belief in multilateralism and a rules-based world order.
"We continue to believe that trade, investments, common standards and level playing fields are the formula for peace and prosperity for the long term, and we hope that even as the superpowers feel their way around each other, that they will still subscribe to this model of multilateralism."
Vivian added that it is essential for world leaders to get together, have face-to-face conversations both in private and in public, so as to build reservoirs of trust to facilitate a habit of collectively dealing with common challenges, which include the pandemic, climate change, and the digital divide -- topics which he spoke at length about in his statement.
"The more we can get into a habit of solving problems collectively, instead of causing problems, the better for all of us."
Singapore has to be "very careful" in managing its relations
In response to a question on AUKUS, a trilateral security pact comprising the U.S., the UK and Australia that has invited strong backlash from China, Vivian said it is a development that's part of a larger geo-strategic realignment against the backdrop of the relationship between the U.S. and China.
Elaborating on Singapore's position on the defence alliance, he said the nation has a longstanding and constructive relationship with all three countries, which is helpful as it means the city-state is "not unduly anxious about these new developments".
"The fact that we are friends to everyone means we're able to speak honestly, constructively, and they know we're not against any party, which gives us a slightly unique role to engage in constructive conversations with all parties," he said.
Still, he cautioned that Singapore has to be "very, very careful" in making sure that it doesn't end up in a position that's "dangerous", or one which can lead to "adverse consequences".
Vivian also added that Singapore hopes these new arrangements will contribute constructively to peace and stability in our region, and complement the regional architecture with Asean as the centre.
Top image via Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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