Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at Rajah and Tann Asia's Global Marquee Event "Beyond Pandemic and Politics: Behold Southeast Asia and the World"

Published date26 July 2021
Publication titleASEAN Tribune

26 July 2021 (Ministry of Education Singapore) Introduction

1. In the spirit of today's hyper-connected world of webinars, instead of "Good Afternoon" from Singapore, may I wish everybody "Good Day" to all of you joining us from around the world.

2. The pandemic has indeed challenged many of our current assumptions and forced us to rethink our future. However, we should not lose sight of the longer-term driving forces that have been at play - prior to and beyond the pandemic.

3. Allow me to start the discussion with two propositions on the driving forces shaping our future. I will then conclude with a third proposition on what all these mean for small city-states like Singapore.

First Proposition: US-China relations define the geopolitical landscape of our time. However, the greatest challenge for both is not the other but themselves.

Second Proposition: The new geography of trade is increasingly defined by connectivity rather than distance or demography.

Third Proposition: These circumstances present a unique historical opportunity for city-states, like Singapore, to defy the odds - to not only survive but to thrive.

Proposition 1 - The greatest challenge for the US and China is themselves

4. Let me start with the first proposition.

5. Many have framed the US-China relations as a zero-sum contest for global leadership. This is overly simplistic. A consequent fallacy is then to ask which will triumph, and how should we hedge our bets.

6. The strategic rivalry between the US and China will remain a feature of the international system for time to come. Neither will collapse in the foreseeable future, and certainly not from the pressures from the other party.

7. But rivalry and competition do not equate to being enemies.

Contest they will - from areas of economics to finance.

Cooperate they can - on issues from North Korea to climate change.

Conflict they need not end up in.

8. Both countries have achieved historical milestones in the last 100 years.

The US ascended to global leadership after the first World War and consolidated its position thereafter. No country or empire in history has achieved such dominance and reach in military, economic and geopolitical influence.

On the other hand, China is fast catching up in terms of its economic prowess, after more than 40 years of economic reforms and integration with the global economy. However, it still lacks the military reach and geopolitical influence of the US.

9. This is key - victory will not be defined by the defeat of...

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