Any clash between the U.S. and China will be "disastrous", particularly for Asia as it will derail the region's efforts to achieve peace and prosperity for its people, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said on Sunday, Dec. 5.
This is also the global issue that he is "most worried about", even with other pressing issues like the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.
Both powers face a trust deficit
Speaking at the World Peace Conference -- an event organised by the Bangladeshi government -- the former prime minister said unlike the global health pandemic and climate change, which are "exogenous events" and attributable to external factors, geo-political power rivalry is "endogenous" in global governance.
And while the relationship between the two major powers "defines the policy space for all national governments" to operate in an interconnected global economy, there is, unfortunately, a trust deficit between them at the moment, he said.
This is because "the U.S. is ideological on advancing democracy and championing human rights outside their own country", and China sees this as "an American strategy to contain its growth", Goh explained.
He further elaborated that they are distrustful of each other's long-term intentions as well, with the U.S. taking actions and rallying allies to deal with "real or perceived threats posed by a superpower China" as the latter continues to grow, resulting in a narrower economic, technological and military gap between the two countries.
Other countries can voice their support for stable world order
However, the rest of the world are not helpless bystanders, he said.
"We can be the voice of reason, the voice of moderation," he said, adding, "We must reinvigorate multilateral and regional collaboration in pursuit of shared peace and prosperity".
"Let us voice out our desire and support for a stable, rules-based multilateral world order," he said.
"We can let the superpowers know where we stand, and the peace, prosperity and social inclusion we seek."
In this regard, Singapore and Bangladesh share common principles and positions, he said, adding that both countries "collaborate well at international and regional fora".
The two are members of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and Goh further said that Singapore welcomes Bangladesh's interest in becoming a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of Asean and its Chairmanship of the Ocean Rim Association, which Singapore is a member of.
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Images adapted via SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg/Getty Images