Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has expressed fears that rising tensions between the U.S. and China can undermine security and economic growth across Asia.
In an article published on Thursday, Lee, therefore, called on both sides to pull back from confrontation.
The prime minister flagged his concerns in an article titled, “The Endangered Asian Century” in the U.S. journal Foreign Affairs, which has a history of running essays by policymakers.
Fearing that smaller Asian countries could be forced to take sides if intransigence grows between the world’s two biggest economies, Lee called for cooperation between the U.S. and China, even as tensions endure over the coronavirus, trade, the disputed South China Sea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
“The two powers must work out a modus vivendi that will be competitive in some areas without allowing rivalry to poison cooperation in others,” Lee implored.
China is the biggest trading partner for much of Asia and could soon overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy – raising concerns about a looming and potentially-debilitating arm-wrestle for supremacy in Asia.
“If Washington tries to contain China’s rise or Beijing seeks to build an exclusive sphere of influence in Asia – they will begin a course of confrontation that will last decades and put the long-heralded Asian century in jeopardy,” the Singapore leader wrote.
Noting that Singapore is the only country aside from China that is home to an ethnic-Chinese majority, Lee said that the U.S’. presence in Asia “is welcome”.
“Asia has prospered because Pax Americana, which has held since the end of World War II, provided a favourable strategic context,” Lee wrote.