The world is at a historic juncture. When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, it signified the effective end of the cold war and the emergence of a world order in which the United States was able to act as the world’s sole superpower. In many ways, 2019 appears to be the year in which the world is again in “reset” mode. The US now feels uncertain about whether it is the only superpower in the world, and it has thus been acting more and more unpredictable in recent years. China is now a recognised counterweight to American supremacy, but it is not the only one: other actors such as Russia and Iran are also challenging the US as well. Meanwhile, countries such as Japan , India , Pakistan, Turkey, and, of course, the European states, while nominally US allies, may not necessarily act according to Washington’s instruction. Malaysia must prepare navy for possible conflict in South China Sea At first glance, everything looks confused and there are already predictions of a coming cold war between the world’s two largest economies: the US having labelled China as a “strategic competitor” two years ago. But the first lesson to learn about the multipolar world in which we now live is that each nation has its own agency, its own interests and its own preferences. So it is all of us who will shape the new world order and press the “reset” button together. One example of this change can be seen in the warming relations between Japan – a US ally – and China, despite rising US-China tensions over the past two years. China continues to rise in both influence and significance, and will definitely play a major role in international relations in the decades to come. To a large extent, its choices will shape the future of the region and it is my fervent hope that Beijing will not choose to define the world as a China-US binary. Mahathir joins criticism of comic linking Malay youths to extremism over Uygurs China should try to break free of such a dichotomy and instead forge ahead with other Asian nations, without behaving like a big power or causing anxiety among its smaller neighbours – many of whom would like to see it embark on a whole new path and start treating them as brothers and sisters who share a common identity and similar security concerns. Many names have been given to our region: the Far East, the Asia-Pacific, and most recently, the Indo-Pacific – a concept that attempts to reinterpret the area’s geostrategic outlook. But I would prefer to simply stick to “Asia” as the term that will continue to shape our collective identity, as this is the name that has been most widely embraced by the people of the region over the last century. For those who are uncomfortable with the Indo-Pacific label, which I suppose includes China, resurrecting, reasserting and giving new meaning to the idea of Asia can help foster new common ground for the countries in the region. On the one hand, the Chinese dream – as popularised by President Xi Jinping – is not sufficiently inclusive. On the other, the idea of the Indo-Pacific is often perceived as a strategic pivot of the so-called Quad – comprising the US, Japan, Australia and India – and is also potentially exclusive. Having bigger powers impose labels that describe the identity of one’s home region is never pleasant, especially as the agency of those being labelled is often denied in the process. Such a naming process only really reflects the aspirations and inner thinking of those who promote and advance certain ideas. That was why the Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted its own Indo Pacific Outlook, to clearly and cleverly stress inclusiveness and Asean centrality instead. Malaysia must prepare navy for conflict in South China Sea, minister warns We in Asia must rediscover the postcolonial spirit of asserting our common Asian identity, through which all nations, whether big or small, claim their own agency. Much as we are tempted to see the world within the binary of great power competition between China and the US, we must not forget what we collectively learned during the post-war period, which is that each postcolonial state, especially those in Asia, is an independent nation possessing its own agency with the power to decide its own destiny. We did not become proxies for the big powers during the cold war and we do not wish to become anyone’s proxy today. Much of 2019 has been coloured by talk of an imminent confrontation between China and the US. We must exercise caution against being entrapped within a framework of big power competition. Instead, we should give ourselves space for the possibility of cooperation and acknowledge more openly the role Asian powers of all sizes can play in our time. US and China set on ‘decoupling’ amid clash of civilisations, forum told The smaller countries in Southeast Asia do not wish to be drawn into a rivalry between big powers. Malaysia , in particular, prefers to remain neutral and not take sides. It is in the nature of small countries to hedge between bigger powers and to hope that they will not be required to take sides. Pressure from either direction will only push small countries towards the other side. In short, we believe that the region needs more cooperation, not more competition. And if China can keep itself free of zero-sum thinking in its strategic approaches, act as an Asian brother and help create new rules for the multipolar world that has emerged so clearly this year, that would be even better. Liew Chin Tong is the Deputy Defence Minister of Malaysia. This is an excerpt of a speech he delivered at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on Monday.