US, other major nations, should give China bigger role in multilateral system: Singapore’s Tharman
- Senior minister calls for reset in US-China ties to one characterised by interdependence, collaboration in shared interests such as climate change
- If ties between both continue to fray and decouple, ‘that will lead to a more dangerous world for both the US and China’, he says
When asked whether he was optimistic about US-China ties neutralising in the next 10 years, Tharman – a senior minister and coordinating minister for social policies – suggested the relationship had been fraying and was moving closer towards decoupling.
“What’s happening now within the US and within China is a self-reinforcing future with more and more self-sufficiency, you’ll see more and more separation. The point is, that will lead to a more dangerous world for both the US and China,” he said.
“Just imagine a world where China is not part of the global markets – free investment, technology, ecosystems, data – just imagine that world.”
“It would be naive to think that economic interdependence assures us our peace, but it makes conflict far less likely than a bifurcated world – a world of bifurcated technologies, markets, payment systems and data,” he said. “That would be a very, very troubling world prone to conflict.”
His comments come as tensions between the two countries have worsened in recent months and caused alarm for officials in the region, though analysts are hopeful that relations would stabilise by the end of the year, with the two state leaders expected to hold their first in-person summit.
Tharman, an ex-central bank chief and one of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s top lieutenants, is among Asia’s most prominent voices on economic and social issues. In his speech on Thursday, the senior minister discussed a range of issues including rising cost of living, climate change and education.
Tharman also highlighted the need to “refashion multilateralism” to allow states to collaborate and collectively address issues such as climate change.
“These are institutions which are valuable and can be repurposed to catalyse a whole new era of public-private partnerships, mobilise private finance, join it together with public finance – so as to make the transition to clean energy, to make preparedness a part of normal economic, social and public health policies,” he said.
On climate change, Tharman, who also currently co-chairs the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, which was launched during the World Economic Forum in March, said recent natural disasters showed climate change to be an imminent threat.
“We have to avoid stagnation of the middle, even as we help uplift those at the lower end of the ladder. It can be done,” he said.